I left off saying that my writing world was going great, but would soon crash and burn. It was 20 years ago this October. I had those four articles under my belt, including the Q & A with Joe Lewis, and I had the tournament story waiting on hold for publication. I’d just been given clearance from the magazine to write another feature with the theme of “Bill Wallace’s Hand Techniques”. Wallace is the former world champion full-contact fighter known around the world as “Superfoot”. He also starred in Chuck Norris and Jackie Chan movies and appeared in lots of other stuff. The project would involve a photo-shoot at Black Belt. I’d never done that there before.
Now’s when my world seemed to fall apart. A change in staffing occurred at the magazine, and, the change involved my contacts. I called and they weren’t there anymore. Since all of this was far above my pay grade, I called a friend who knew a few people and he said it was true. I was caught off guard and completely out of sorts over it. I was sure the new staff wouldn’t use me. They would have their own people. I never had the desire to write for any publications other than Black Belt or its sister publications. Consequently, I was convinced that my writing career was over. And, what about my Bill Wallace story? That was down the tubes as well. I was very discouraged. I was a dead man walking.
After some time had passed, my wife Martha started talking to me about the situation. As is the case with many husbands, I often resisted listening, preferring to just fix things on my own. Fortunately, this time I listened. Martha said I should proceed just as if nothing had happened. I said, “What are you talking about?” I thought she was nuts. She said, “Why don’t you send a fax and try and set up the Wallace photo-shoot and see what happens”. I said, “Who do I send it to?” She said, “To whom it may concern, honey”. And that’s just what I did. I remember it being a Friday. I continued to mope around all weekend (what a waste of time that is).
The following Monday or Tuesday the phone rang. I answered, and the person on the other end said, “Hi, is this Floyd Burk”? I said yes. He said, “My name is Robert Young. I’m the acting editor (the new staff that I was worried about) for Black Belt Magazine. I received your fax regarding the Bill Wallace hand techniques story and would like to talk to you about it”. I said, great. Young said, “We would like to use it in the issue that’s going into production next, and, we want to make it the cover. But, would you mind changing the angle from hand techniques to kicking and flexibility?” I said, no I don’t mind. I said, “When do you want us to go there for the photo-shoot?” Young said, “As soon as possible”.
Now that was a shocker. After giving me the deadline to turn in the story, Young told me they were going to publish my tournament article in the issue that was in production. After we hung up, I looked at my wife and jumped for joy. She was right after all. I was truly grateful.
It was all very surreal. The article went from being an unscheduled inside story to a soon-to-go-into-production cover story. I remember Martha and I prancing around the house singing, “Cover story, cover story, we got a cover story”. Very corny indeed. I called up Wallace to set up the shoot and scheduled it for early November. After interviewing Wallace, I wrote the story. I put my heart and soul into crafting fresh content that was easy to read and understand. I worked on it night and day for a couple of weeks. Whether I was at home or at the dojo, I was working on the story. I finished the piece a day or two before the shoot.
It seems like it couldn’t get any better, but it does. Wallace invited me to be his partner in the photo-shoot. I didn’t know if his cover would be solo or not but who cares – a picture or two inside Black Belt is a big deal. In the end, it was six pages of pictures, and, the cover included me. In January 1998, the issue hit the newsstands. To say the least I was thrilled. I felt so good about the results of the collaboration between Wallace and myself. I also really appreciated the editor taking a chance on me. I ended up writing three more covers that year and more in 1999 including a dozen features. Yet, none of it would have happened had I just sat around feeling sorry for myself and hadn’t sent that fax. We really do make our own luck. – Floyd Burk