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  • Lani Hansen

Guess named Lifetime Achievement winner by American Book awards

Updated: Oct 22, 2018

UKB member Sequoyah Guess poses with all of his work to date. He began writing short stories in high school and today is known for his Cherokee storytelling abilities. COURTESY.



TAHLEQUAH – United Keetoowah Band of Cherokee Indians member Sequoyah Guess has been given the Lifetime Achievement Award from the American Book Awards.

“I was nominated last year for Lifetime Achievement, but of course I didn’t win,” said Guess. “The funny thing about this year was that I didn’t even know I was nominated this year. It was a complete surprise when I found out I won this year.”

The American Book Awards are bestowed by the Before Columbus Foundation and were made to acknowledge the literary accomplishments over a vast range of America’s artistic community. Winners can vary from seasoned, well-known authors to those making their debuts.

“I am really excited that I won this award,” said Guess. “I was looking at the nomination list and there was so many well-known people on that list. I am still surprised I won going against famous literature artists.”

Guess said he is well-known for his storytelling, writing and filmmaking, all components that the Lifetime Achievement Award is based upon.

He said he first began writing as a sophomore in high school before eventually self-publishing his first novel in 1993.

The book, titled “Kholvn,” explores the Cherokee legend of the Raven Mocker, an evil being that preys on the sick. It even found its way into Hollywood, though it would only lead Guess to take more creative charge over his work.

“Some of my friends took my book and took it to Hollywood. They said, ‘this would be a good film.’ A lot of the Hollywood producers, when I wrote the screenplay, they wanted to change it and have a white man to save the day,” he said.

Instead of sacrificing his vision, Guess decided to adapt the book to the big screen for himself and it ran for a limited engagement in the 1990s at Tahlequah’s Dream Theater.

Since his first book, Guess has gone on to write three more original novels and a collaboration with several other Cherokee storytellers in 2013 called “Cherokee Stories of the Turtle Island Liars Club.”

Every author has their own unique ways of writing, though Guess prefers to leave some of his creative decisions up to chance.

“Everybody has a chance to live or die in my books. Even the hero can get killed,” he said. “When I start a book I have three cans in front of me. One is the person that is the next one that’s going to get killed. I’ll shake it up, pull a piece of paper out and read the name. The next can is how they get killed. Sometimes it makes me sad because I like the person. The last can I have is like, ‘is it forever?’ Sometimes I’ll get one that says, ‘Comes back later.’”

Once he has the plot points covered, Guess will feel the story out until it’s right.

“Everything comes to halt to make sure everything is right when I write a story,” he said. “I just wait until it feels right and later on I’ll go through it to make it perfect. Somebody said a book is like a child. You push it out into the world when you’re ready, whether you’re ready to leave your characters or not, and you just hope you did a good job.”

Though Guess cannot travel to accept the award, a representative for him will accept it on his behalf with the rest of the 2018 American Book Award winners on October 28 from 12-2:30 p.m. at the SF Jazz Center’s Joe Henderson Lab.

Those interested in purchasing any of his books can contact him by searching for “Sequoyah Guess” on Facebook.



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