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 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…”


Gary Kalkin

As a young actor, trying to make it in Hollywood, I had the great fortune to become acquainted with producer Laurence Mark and his one-time partner Gary Kalkin. They’d been together for years, however, at the point I met them, they had split, but remained the best of friends. They still lived together in a beautiful home where I enjoyed some special dinner parties with guests you might know the names of…

Gary was the senior vice president of domestic marketing for Buena Vista Pictures (Disney.) As such, he oversaw the creation of the marketing campaigns for “Aladdin,” “Down and Out in Beverly Hills,” “Good Morning, Vietnam,” “Who Framed Roger Rabbit,” “Pretty Woman” and “The Lion King.” I’m not sure why Gary took such a liking to me, but he put me on the Disney sneak preview list, inviting me to every screening of every movie they released during his tenure. As a starving actor, it was a wonderful gift to receive. I can still vividly recall the magical movie premiere for the animated “Beauty and the Beast,” at the then-newly restored El Capitan Theater in Hollywood, preceded by an elaborate stage show.

One of the best nights of my life–EVER–happened in February 1993 and also involved Gary. I have been a fan of Stephen Sondheim for as long as I can remember, so when I heard they were doing a one-night-only, 20th anniversary original cast reunion performance of “Company” at the Long Beach Terrace Theater, I immediately bought two tickets. My good friend at the time, Cheryl Dolins, was also a Sondheim fan, and we couldn’t wait to go.

Gary called shortly after we’d bought the tickets, and invited me to the Disney Golden Globes after-party; I was crushed at the conflict. He said to stop by afterward, if we could, and at least say hello.

Cheryl and I loved the performance of “Company,” and–completely exhilarated–we rushed back to LA for the after-party. Walking up the red carpet at the Beverly Hilton, there were a few photographers straggling about, trying to figure out if we were “someone” and, to us, we felt as if we were.

When we got to the check-in desk, the woman helping us apologized, saying the party was just about over, but if we wanted to go in for a quick drink, we could. Dejected to have gotten there so late, we still went it, looking about for Gary. Imagine our shock, walking in, to find that there were only about 12 people in the entire ballroom. But aside from Gary, those people included Anthony Hopkins, Emma Thompson, Al Pacino, and Rodney Dangerfield. Cheryl and I were completely beside ourselves, hovering with the others around the few platters of food left, acting as if hanging out with this particular crowd was an everyday occurrence.

Two years later, Gary would be dead of AIDS. He’ll never know just what a remarkable impact his simple generosity had on me. He was directly responsible for some of my best “life moments.” In a town not known for kind acts without the expectation of something in return, Gary’s sweet gift of access to film to this young actor provided me with endless opportunities to soak up the movie business, for which I’m eternally grateful. I missed him then, and I miss him now. RIP, handsome Gary.

My thanks to Stuart at The AIDS Memorial on Instagram for my daily remembrances of the countless souls lost to AIDS. They are emotional to read, but I try to reach each and every one, despite the tears they bring.

Gary Kalkin