Between the covers of “Night Train, Cold Beer” is a collection of individual stories that are, on their own, interesting, sometimes dark and cold, and occasionally dangerous – much like the metal pieces its author uses to create his welded sculptures. Melded together, they’ve been deemed award-worthy.
It’s fitting that local artist Guinotte Wise calls his latest creation a “word sculpture.”
Wise’s collection of short stories was recently awarded the H. Palmer Hall Award from Pecan Grove Press, an academic publishing company at St. Mary’s University in San Antonio. The award goes to a first-time author and includes 25 copies of the book and a cash prize, which Wise has put right back into publishing expenses.
Wise, who lives in the New Lancaster area, said it was important to him to find a publisher that would produce print copies of his collection. The author said in an era when novels can be inexpensively and haphazardly published in e-book format, he wanted to be sure his book was thoroughly-edited and carefully critiqued before resting in the hands of a reader.
“It’s getting published the traditional way, by a press that uses ink and paper,” Wise said. “That’s getting increasingly hard to do, especially with all the e-editions that are out there. It’s coming out in paperback and will be available in e-form later.”
Many of Wise’s stories have already been in print in literary magazines, while others will be publicly read for the first time when the book is published in mid-2013. As a former creative director, Wise said he’s been writing for many years but picked up fiction writing again two years ago after his retirement.
With a background in advertising design, a successful venture in sculpture with gallery shows across the state and numerous commissioned pieces and a history of interesting experiences from writing scripts in Los Angeles to shining shoes and selling hangers as a child, Wise has plenty of life events to reinvent in his stories.
While many of the stories are loosely based on his experiences, Wise said they form a sort of alternate reality, a series of events that have been creatively skewed to tell a different story.
“A lot of them happened kind of around me or what my imagination might have dreamed up in those days,” Wise said “I never knew anyone who killed Kennedy or would I want to. No one in my family has ever been a mercenary, although some came close, and my father was a pretty good dude. So these things are half-and-half dreamed up, and they’re all totally fiction.”
Some of the stories’ settings lie close to home but are still heavily fictionalized.
“I really don’t believe there are people growing drugs in the Marais des Cygnes Wildlife Reserve,” Wise said with a chuckle. “I’ve made it bigger than it is, made it crawling with the criminal element, almost like the Amazon.”
Like his sculpting career, Wise said he just follows where his mind leads him with these adaptations.
“Something happens when fiction takes over and allows you to go where you want to go,” Wise said. “These are dark stories. Some have humor in them or a certain irony or something to prepare for. They’re not really happy stories, but they’re interesting.”
Wise said he’s also completed a novel and is working on several more short stories, in addition to keeping up with his sculpting. While waiting on the release of “Night Train, Cold Beer,” he said he’ll be working hard to put the book in as many hands as possible.
“It’s so hard to compete in the publishing industry these days,” Wise said. “If you have something worthwhile, and I do believe this is, I’m going to be in the competition.”
Wise already has a couple of book readings lined up at the Strecker-Nelson Gallery in Manhattan and the Hilliard Gallery of Fine Art in Kansas City, Mo., and said he plans to arrange more readings at local bookstores.
“Night Train, Cold Beer” will be available at Amazon and Barnes and Noble’s websites in mid-2013.
For more information, visit Wise’s website at www.wisesculpture.com/word.html.