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It’s Been 15 Years…

…since we lost the AMAZING Dorothy Loudon.  Best known for her Tony Award-Winning work as Miss Hannigan in “Annie,” I will always remember her for this brilliant interpretation of two of Stephen Sondheim’s most wonderful songs. It’s hard to pull off both the comedic and dramatic, at the same time, but she does so, effortlessly..

Your talent, Ms. Loudon, will live on.

Seven Years Ago Today…

Seven years ago today, my debut novel came out. I was floored by the response. It had taken me 12 years of writing, on/off, to finally complete my labor of love, inspired by a partner, Shane Sawick, who died of AIDS in 1995. At some point following, a sentence popped into my head. I didn’t know what it meant, who was speaking it, or where it would lead, but that one line fueled a journey and became the opening line in my novel.

Just a few of the accolades it received:
Starred Review – Library Journal
2012 Next Generation Indie Book Award – LGBTQ
Independent Literary Awards – LGBTQ Shortlist
Best Books of 2012 – Out in Print Reviews
Best LGBTQ Literature of 2012 – Indie Reviews
Top 5 Books of 2012 – Alfred Lives Here
Top 10 Books of 2012 – Butterfly-O-Meter Books

Advocate.com raves that “Kergan Edwards-Stout has crafted a work of fiction reminiscent of some classic tales in Songs for the New Depression. Even better, Edwards-Stout’s debut boasts the kind of dark humor that made Augusten Burroughs (Running With Scissors, Dry) a household name.”

Kirkus Reviews (“The World’s Toughest Book Critics”) calls it an “engaging debut… Edwards-Stout infuses reality and hopefulness into a bittersweet story about compassion and personal growth. A distinctively entertaining novel written with moxie and bolstered by pitch-perfect perspectives.”

Five-time Lambda Literary award-winning author Michael Nava says, “”Songs for the New Depression is an affecting novel, written with great literary flair. I recommend it.”

What’s It About?
Gabriel Travers knows he’s dying; he just can’t prove it. Despite his doctor’s proclamations to the contrary and rumors of a promising new HIV drug cocktail, all it takes is one glance into the mirror to tell Gabe everything he needs to know. His ass, once the talk of West Hollywood, now looks suspiciously like a Shar-Pei, prompting even more talk around town. Now almost 40, and with the clock ticking, Gabe begins to finally peel back the layers and tackle his demons — with a little help from the music of the Divine Miss M and his mom’s new wife, a country music-loving priest.

Praise for Songs for the New Depression
“Edwards-Stout’s satiric wit belies a smoothly written, circumspect story.” Library Journal

“Simply stunning… This tale of love and life constantly brought me to both laughter and tears. To those of us who loved and lost this is an important read to assist your reconciliation. It has mine. To those who have heard the stories, this love letter should be required reading. The characters are nicely carved and as they come to terms with moral decisions, it ultimately to me was all about getting through ones life awake and alive.” Dana Miller, Frontiers Magazine/Los Angeles

“Brilliantly conceived and masterfully written… You’ll read this once for its emotional impact and again to see how the author achieves it. But no matter how many times you dive in, you’ll be impressed.” Out in Print Reviews

“Songs for the New Depression is a thoughtful read that should speak to many.” Midwest Book Review

“I highly recommend this very well-written work, but have the box of tissues handy with you.” Five Star Review – Sirius, Gay Book Review

“Compelling, beautifully written debut novel… The author’s darkly comic, brutally honest prose reads like poetry and has a melodic flow that is equally funny and heartbreaking. Gabe’s story is bittersweet, heartfelt and profound… A quintessential page-turner and the product of a truly gifted author.” Edge on the Net

“From LA to Palm Springs to Paris, over the course of 20 years, Kergan Edwards-Stout takes us on a beautiful journey. The characters are dynamic, interesting, and real, and the relationships are painful and funny and romantic and sexy and sad all at once.” Q Magazine

“Songs for the New Depression is an affecting novel, written with great literary flair. I particularly enjoyed its portrait of Los Angeles in the 80’s and 90’s, as well as the author’s brave willingness to write about the AIDS epidemic at a time when so many of us seem to want to forget that terrifying era. At times laugh aloud funny, and at other times intensely moving, it is the first of what I hope will be many books to come from Kergan Edwards-Stout. I recommend it.” Michael Nava, author (Five Lambda Literary Awards, winner of The Publishing Triangle’s Bill Whitehead Lifetime Achievement Award for Gay and Lesbian literature)

“Many tout this book as an important piece of fiction that should be read by all because of it’s portrayal of AIDS. I’ll give them that. I would add that it’s not only an important piece of fiction because of the message, but it’s a great piece of fiction writing regardless of the message.” LGBT Book Review Blog

“The laughs make the book deceptively breezy. Songs shines with psychological truth and historical accuracy.” A&U magazine

“Edwards-Stout has written a wonderful book in which he takes on AIDS and depression from a personal point of view and he does so with great style and wit.” Amos Lassen, Reviews by Amos

“This is a work that will make you both laugh and cry, and fair warning: it is difficult to get through certain portions of the text because Edwards-Stout is quite explicit in detail, which is testament to the fact that he is such a brilliant writer. This is not one to miss.” Liberty Press

“Five Stars.” Bob Lind, ECHO Magazine/Our Bookshelf

“If a roller-coaster ride of sadness and humor sounds right up your alley, then look for Songs for the New Depression by Kergan Edwards-Stout. This is the story of a man who knows he’s dying, knows he’s made a lot of mistakes in his life, and knows that he needs to fix things before the end. I won’t tell you the end. Read the book.” Terri Schlichenmeyer, The Bookworm Sez syndicated column

“Involving, emotional read… Songs For The New Depression touched me and stayed with me.” Alfred Lives Here

“Songs for the New Depression is an enjoyable and addictive read. In fact, don’t be surprised if you find yourself not answering texts and neglecting your Facebook updates as you finish the book in one read. I did.” Q Vegas Magazine

“The NY Times ought to be reviewing Songs for the New Depression, not the likes of me. It is a beautiful book, and, I think, an important one.” Ulysses Grant Dietz, author

“One of the most emotional, touching, heart-wrenching, and intelligent stories I’ve read in a very long time. With a dark wit reminding me of David Sedaris, this story examines the life of a man who’s made many mistakes and, at the end, has managed to learn a few lessons… The language is sophisticated and elegant, each word precise, depicting clear images and evoking specific emotions. The description, whether of location, food, clothing, people, or emotions draws the reader into the moment as if it were actually happening. As a result, we experience Gabe’s highs and lows on a powerful level, truly understanding Gabe, his limitations, and his dreams.Wrapped up in a sad story, illustrated with disappointments and heart-break, is a story of hope and understanding.” Top2Bottom Reviews

“Kergan Edwards-Stout’s Songs for the New Depression is a bold reminder that life, especially in its most difficult moments, is worth living. His characters are real and poignant, his writing is magical, and his message is timeless. Life is at its most precious when we are faced with our own mortality. It is an important book.” Charles Perez, author of Confessions of a Gay Anchorman and founder of the No Shame Project.

“This is an incredibly important book.” Chapters and Chats

“Songs for the New Depression is an impressive, innovative, and dynamic love story. Rich, witty, and vivid, this is a heart-wrenching, hilarious and sometimes shocking journey of an everyman-narcissist who finally finds redemption in embracing his humanity and ultimately reunites with the hero he was always looking for between the lines of Paris, Bette Midler, and all things fabulous. I found myself singing along until I was able to shout, ‘Amen!’” Steven Fales, Confessions of a Mormon Boy

“This book touched me at the core of my being! It is a story of love and devotion, and a self examination of a dying man… I read this book in just a couple of days because I could not stop once I started reading.” Book Talk With Charla

“Kergan Edwards-Stout has written a masterpiece. A bravura debut novel, its heartfelt message is ultimately timeless. It is easily one of the top ten books I’ve enjoyed in the past decade. Once you start this one, you won’t be able to stop.” Carey Parrish, author of Marengo and Big Business

“Songs for the New Depression carries you away on waves of humor and sadness as we follow the protagonist as he deals with his search for love, acceptance and his battle with AIDS. Far from being maudlin, it is extremely sensitive and ennobling. A fine work that will leave you wanting more.” Robert Michael Morris, star of TV’s The Comeback and author of An American Scrapbook

 

5 Years Ago…

Five years ago, my collection of short stories came out, Gifts Not Yet Given. While each story is set around a different holiday, it really is about people facing a life moment, and how they choose a path forward. I was very grateful that it received some lovely reviews and even landed on a few Best Books of the Year lists. I hope you’ll check it out!

What’s It About?
Gifts Not Yet Given is a warm and nuanced collection of short stories, each set around a holiday, illuminating the small, surprising, and pivotal moments in which personal awakenings occur and hearts unexpectedly expand. It was recently named by the nationally syndicated column The Bookworm Sez as a “perfect book to give everyone.” In Gifts Not Yet Given, written by award-winning author Kergan Edwards, dreams are realized, hope is found, memories are made, and life is treasured.

Top 5 Books of the Year – Alfred Lives Here
Top LGBTQ Books of the Year – Queer Books with Julie

Praise for Gifts Not Yet Given
“Gifts Not Given is a wonderful collection of stories from Kergan Edwards-Stout in which each story centers around a holiday. The stories are complex, surprising, touching and written with compassion and humanity, two qualities sadly lacking in so much contemporary fiction. I highly recommend Gifts Not Given and thank the author for this gift he has given us.” Michael Nava, winner of six Lambda Literary Awards as well as the Bill Whitehead Literary Award for Career Achievement

“The stories in Gifts Not Yet Given are vital, essential and remind us that much of human life is gained or lost through family. Edwards-Stout shines a light on contemporary life with skill and wit. A dynamic and engaging read.” – Trebor Healey, two-time Ferro-Grumley Fiction Award winner, A Horse Named Sorrow and Through It Came Bright Colors

“Kergan Edwards-Stout’s stories are muscular, funny, sad and an antidote to holiday treacle, no matter the holiday. His writing is fueled by an original mix of compassion and rage. Several of the stories left me in tears, which certainly beats being left in tears by my own family at holiday time. Which means: he understands family, and the often crossed wires of family love. You will want to give his book as a gift.” – Richard Kramer, novelist, These Things Happen

“In 14 stories, Edwards-Stout assumes an impressive range of voices… This willingness to step inside the minds of such disparate, often non-mainstream characters hints at Edwards-Stout’s confidence as a writer and his broad life experiences. Edwards-Stout’s stories are original and important… Provocative stories with a clear, vital message.” Kirkus Reviews

“Author Kergan Edwards-Stout follows up his engrossing debut novel, Songs for the New Depression, which examines thirty years in the life of an AIDS-stricken California man, with the equally profound, Gifts Not Yet Given, a short story collection of compelling characters and circumstances ranging from the mundane to the maladjusted… With a holiday or special occasion as the backdrop for each entry, emotions run especially high throughout and the behavior of the represented individuals is contrary to the everyday… Although select stories are arguably too brief, all never fail to pack an emotional punch, and the collection, as a whole, is chock full of joyous albeit occasionally awkward instances and imagery (divorce, a sacred family recipe, an Easter bunny outfit) that are relatable, or at least familiar to everyone. With the holiday season approaching, Gifts Not Yet Given reminds readers, however flawed, to accept, appreciate and when warranted, forgive our families and friends.” Christopher Verleger, Edge on the Net

“Gifts is a stunning compilation from a smart and skilled author.” Dana Miller, Frontiers Los Angeles

“Kergan Edwards-Stout impressed me greatly with his first book, Songs for the New Depression, and he gave himself quite a task for measuring his work that was yet to come. I am glad to say that this book not only lives up to my expectations, it surpasses them.” – Amos Lassen

“Check this one out — the stories are original and intriguing, and the characters are strong and flawed, loving and broken.” – Alfred Lives Here (Top 5 Books of 2013)

“Edwards-Stout writes beautifully, and the stories are charming and uplifting.” Queer Books with Julie (Top Books of 2013)

“Kergan Edwards-Stout’s new book, a collection of thematic short stories, is like a box of chocolates; you never know what you are going to get. And that is delicious. The short story form is a delicate blend of trenchant dialogue, brisk character sketches and local color, and here they are all totally satisfying. What I love about short stories is that I always want a bit more, a tidier resolution, and I am a sucker for a happy ending. Mr. Edwards-Stout has mastered this form, titillating, plucking the heart strings and most often causing a smile of recognition. Some stories already portend a lengthier treatment, a novella perhaps. He touches our common humanity and amazes with his insight. The little collection is a Gift Already Given: a gift of delight and sweet humanity.” – Robert Michael Morris, actor – The Comeback, Running Wilde, and author – An American Scrapbook

7 Years Ago, My first Review…

It’s hard to believe, but seven years ago I received the first review for my debut novel, Songs for the New Depression, from Kirkus Reviews (“The World’s Toughest Book Critics”). I was floored:

“Edwards-Stout’s engaging debut introduces sassy, outspoken Gabe Travers, a sarcastically witted, near-40, Southern California guy whose homosexuality ‘has never been an issue’ and whose particular fondness for Paris, France, and Bette Midler has carried him through some of life’s more challenging episodes (the book’s title is from Midler’s 1976 song collection).

Told from Travers’ first-person perspective, the story moves in reverse, chronicling his death in the first pages before moving to his adult life struggling with HIV and on to his adventuresome youth. Edwards-Stout excels at characterization, cleverly arming his plucky protagonist with a contagious combination of wit and droll self-deprecation. Travers skillfully navigates each stage of his life, from a young, spirited gay man to a paranoid adult whose mortality hinges on the dormancy of a fatal virus, all the while keeping his pride and wry sense of humor remain beautifully intact.

Drawn from his experiences as an AIDS caregiver and the surviving partner of an AIDS victim, Edwards-Stout infuses reality and hopefulness into a bittersweet story about compassion and personal growth. A distinctively entertaining gay novel written with moxie and bolstered by pitch-perfect perspectives.”

Happy 16th Anniversary, My Love!

 

16 years. I’d call that a Match.com success story! Who would’ve thunk, two such very different people would end up complementing each other so well? Despite the images we choose to share online, please know that our lives are not perfect. Russ and I have to do the hard work to keep ourselves and our family on track, and none of that is easy. Still, by focusing on communication, compromise, and lots of laughs, we all continue to move forward together, with love abounding. 16 years is nothing. Check back with me in another 16… Happy Anniversary, my love!

To Mason…

I’ve always known my failings as a father, and have a long list of things I’d do differently, if given the chance. Lessons still remain that I’d planned to teach. And I am not yet the role model that I’d always intended to be… My hope with our kids, however, is that they will never, ever doubt my love for them. Today is a big day in our family, a turning point. While Mason technically moves into his dorm August 22, he has used his own money to get a hotel room in Gunnison, CO, starting today, so that he can practice with the Western State University football team. I’m so proud that he’s harnessing his own initiative to achieve his dream, even if that means he leaves us a little earlier than we would like.

Mason, I know you’ll succeed at life, and I want you to always be certain of our love and support. Be the upstanding man we know you to be. Be strong, be smart, and be loving. Treat others with kindness, and reach out to those in need.

Football is a tough sport, and I hope you stay safe and kick ass on the field. It won’t take much for you to show the coaches what you can do. Know that you are amazing. You have leadership abilities and I hope you have the opportunities to use them.

As much as I’m rooting for you, you also know that this change touches me deeply. Our relationship will be altered, starting today. Out of necessity, yes–but that doesn’t mean I like it. My heart aches at the thought that I won’t see your smiling face on a daily basis. It is an inevitability that kids grow up and move away, and I want you to fly. But I also know how much light you’ve brought us… Not having you around is going to be tough, but I also know that means you’ll be shining your light on others, who will benefit from your goodness.

The card we gave you at your goodbye dinner last night says it all: “It will be a bit gloomy here without you. That’s what happens when the sunshine goes away.”

I love you today, tomorrow, and every day. Fly, my beloved, and find great fortune.

(And if you ever doubt my love, listen to this song. SEE? I got you to listen to Mary Chapin Carpenter! )

Here’s to the Lady Who Lunched

Today marks the fourth anniversary of the passing of the extraordinary, one-of-a-kind Elaine Stritch. A Broadway legend, there are simply no “others” remotely like her. If you were to say, “Get me an Elaine Stritch,” you’d be hard-pressed to find anything close. Biting, sarcastic, iconic, gutsy–with innumerable layers beneath the exterior–this woman who couldn’t really “sing” sure gave the theater a whole host of remarkable performances.

Key to them all is her singular performance in Sondheim’s Company, which I was fortunate enough to see live as the entire original cast reconvened for a special concert performance in 1993. Below, you get a glimpse of the behind-the-scenes of the making of the Company cast album, which proved an ordeal for Stritch. (The full documentary–a must-see for theater lovers, can be found here.) Despite all she faced, well-documented here, she nailed her performance the very next day:

If you’re a Sondheim lover, you really should watch his full birthday celebration (most of which can be viewed on YouTube). Here, Elaine Stritch does “I’m Still Here”–putting all other versions in distant memory.

 


While she may not be here anymore, she’ll always be HERE.

In Beulah’s Land

My hubby Russ had a deceased aunt that no one talked about, until one day he heard a bit of her story and, in turn, wrote a poem to honor her. Here is what he shared on Facebook:

“Considering where we are with potential, historic, life-altering decisions being made by a far-right Supreme Court. I offer you this story of my Aunt—the Aunt I never knew.
My heavy heart feels her story should finally be told…

This is for all of the young women, where ever you are, on your journey.

(In honor of my Aunt Beulah)

Beulah’s Land

Heaven’s land… Oh, so far from it. So far and so long ago…
A farmer’s daughter, just one of ten. Beulah—a stranger to me, a ghost from the past.
A hushed memory. A life, invisible, framed on a bedroom wall, in a farmhouse in deep Appalachia.

Beulah, you were shamed, forgotten. You never even lived. What a shame. What a shame.

Where did you meet that man? Was he a farmer’s son?…
A preacher boy?
Did he pay you the attention that you so desperately craved?
Did he call you pretty? Did he caress your hair?
Did he kiss you deep?

Did he lay you in the tall green grass?
Say everything’s gonna be ok?
Did he love you, even for a moment?
Did he promise to take you away, away from Beulah’s Land?

Did he hurt you when he took you?
Were you forced, or did you go willingly?
I wonder if you loved him, or just the thought of it all—
to escape from nothingness to something,
Anything at all… Anywhere but Beulah’s Land.

I can only imagine your shame,
when you knew what you knew.
The boy was gone, but he left his mark, deep inside you.
Do you run away, or do you stay?
Will your daddy kill you, or will they send you away,
away from Beulah’s Land…

So, you took it in yourself, in secret and in shame.
You took your Mama’s knitting needle and thrust it deep within…
End the pain. End the misery—the inevitable shame that casts its long dark shadow…
On a life, never to be, in Beulah’s Land. In Beulah’s Land.

They said you passed from sickness, but Beulah,
now I know, that’s not so.
You died from gouging wounds—your blood turning against you, while darkness fell in Beulah’s Land.

They buried you high on a hill, deep below the tall green grass.
And that’s where they ended your story…
A hushed memory. An invisible life, framed on a bedroom wall.

Beulah, you were shamed, but not forgotten. You lived.
And I will tell your story…

For all the young girls who now live in Beulah’s Land—
poor and all alone, there is hope. There is a way…
Make your peace.
Find your strength.
Push on.
Tomorrow holds many keys…
To lives that need to be lived—stories that must be told.

Don’t let it all end in Beulah’s Land.
Live long in the tall green grass. For anything less,
would be such a shame… But, not your shame.
For, we’re all the same in Beulah Land—In Heaven’s Land,
at last.

Laura Harden

I first met Laura Harden when she came to audition for two one-act plays that I was directing/producing at the Olio theater in Silverlake in the early 90’s. She easily landed the role of the Preacher in RAT SONGS, a bitingly-funny and seedy part. I can vividly recall her demented take on the role, wearing full nun’s habit and crucifix in hand.

Later, while at Paramount, I kept trying to get parts for her in some of the sitcoms I was working on… She came in and read for a part I was sure she was perfect for, but the casting director chose to cast his friend instead.

Recently, she was a recurring cast member on all five seasons of Child of the 70s, a comedic webseries, on which she was cast by actor/creator Michael Vaccaro, whom she’d also met on our play, all those years ago.

Laura had suffered from health problems for years and was recently hospitalized. Bawdy, funny, and caring, Laura passed away last night (May 31, 2018.) She’ll be missed by her family, friends, and all of the cats she loved over the years. RIP, Laura.

Robert Michael Morris

Today marks one year since the lovely Robert Michael Morris was taken from us. Russ and I were fortunate enough to meet Michael through our good friend, writer/director Glenn Gaylord. Glenn knew of our love for The Comeback, especially the character Mickey, whom Michael played, and had directed Michael in a TV pilot, Lez Be Friends. One night, he brought Michael to dinner at our place. We quickly became fast friends, meeting him for lunch regularly at Shenandoah at the Arbor, as we loved the food and patio–and it was central to where we lived and where Michael lived, as he hated to drive, especially at night.

Michael was smart, sassy, and funny–but not entirely like the beloved “Mickey” he played on The Comeback. At times he could be like an old auntie, scolding when he didn’t approve of something. He’d been a teacher for years, teaching both high school and college, which perhaps explains his tendency to “mother” people.

His generosity knew no bounds. When I was gathering items for a silent auction to help those battling HIV/AIDS, he handed over boxes of random trinkets and jewelry he’d collected through the years, as well as several original paintings. I doubt that he knew the value of any of them–they’d just struck his fancy–and it is likely that he felt that if they were worth something to him, they’d mean something to someone else as well.

Michael was also a prolific writer, with enough plays to fill four anthology volumes, and was the author of An American Scrapbook. Rumor also has it that, prior to his death, he was at work or had completed a memoir. How I’d love to read that!

In the months before his death, Michael sent us a beautiful Lladró porcelain, depicting Othello and Desdemona. He’s intended it to honor both our artistic endeavors and that both of our children are black, as Michael had mentioned more than once that he found our adoption of them somewhat noble. While to us there was nothing “noble” about these adoptions–we simply wanted healthy children–we thoroughly appreciated Michael’s unwavering support. Still, when we unpacked the gift, I looked at Russ and said, “Do you think he’s preparing for the end?”

We’d known about Michael’s cancer some time, and when he found out that they were indeed going to film a second season of The Comeback, he shared that his cancer would be part of the storyline. If you haven’t seen The Comeback, I urge you to and won’t spoil anything, other than to say that his performance in season 2 should have won an Emmy. There are moments throughout the season between him and Valerie Cherish (Lisa Kudrow) which are simply magical-breathtaking-emotional-riveting. Their relationship proved the show’s most strongest, allowing each a shoulder on which to rely. Season 2 marked some of the best television anywhere, and was Michael’s finest performance on film. He also gave memorable appearances on Running Wilde, Arrested Development, Will & Grace, How I Met Your Mother, The Class, and Brothers and Sisters.

In the end, it isn’t only his performances I’ll best remember, but the simple kindnesses he repeatedly showed… The way, when sharing something particularly delicious, he’d place his hand on yours, giving it a squeeze, showing he trusted your confidence… His hearty laugh, which inevitably made an appearance in every meeting…

Robert Michael Morris was a class act and deserved even more attention than he’d already received. Kind, caring, and witty, Michael lives on in the heart of anyone whom ever heard him utter, “Oh, Red…”