Friday, September 28, 2012

Kergan Edwards-Stout - "Songs for the New Depression"

I want to introduce another guest artist who I attended high school with.  I have not seen Kergan since we graduated.  I don't want to say how long ago it has been as it will date us both.  We connected via Face Book and I look forward to seeing him at our next high school reunion.  I learned he has a beautiful family and has  written an inspiring novel Songs for the NewDepression.  I asked if he would write something for my blog to inspire other artists.  

Question:  What inspired you to become a professional writer?  When did you know and at what moment did you decide to take the plunge.

I’ve always been creative, even as a little kid. In 2nd grade, I was the one spraying pine-scented Glade into the audience, trying to establish the proper "forest" mood for my production of Snow White. Perhaps, to some, it would’ve been wiser to have spent less time on such "non-essentials" and more time rehearsing the actors. But in my view, it was far more important that our dwarves actually look the part, with dwarf-like shoes (i.e., slippers), than learn their dialogue. Who cares if little Billy knows his lines, if everyone looks on the stage and still sees little Billy?

For great art, you need the magic, the essence -- the scent -- more than anything else.

And while that passion for the arts never wavered, as I aged, I began to view my creative endeavors more as hobbies than vocations.  I was content directing other people’s scripts, reciting other people’s lines, and never quite believing that I had it in me to create a work from scratch.  Until my partner, Shane Sawick, died.  Suddenly, I was overflowing with thoughts and emotions which were entirely unique to me, and I began to put those thoughts onto paper.  The discovery that I had a unique voice was somewhat startling, as was the experience of allowing myself to feel each emotion as it occurred, but I continued to write, and ended up publishing my debut novel, Songs for the NewDepression, late last year. 

Inspired by my partner, the book follows a man facing death, attempting to make amends, and the biting humor within is a loving tribute to Shane.  Happily, the novel has been met with much acclaim and awards, including the 2012 Next Generation Indie Book Award in the LGBTQ category, and each positive review or note I receive from a reader tells me that I needed to take this step, and that my story resonates with others.  By finding that storyteller within, I discovered I had the strength and determination to take the plunge into writing as a profession, and it has been a rewarding ride.

I got an email one day from a reader who had loved my novel, but said, as much as he had a story of his own he wanted to tell, he felt that he’d never write it himself.  “Besides,” he said, “all the great stories have already been told.”  But I don’t believe that.  A wonderful epiphany occurs in Stephen Sondheim’s Sunday in the Park with George, when a disillusioned artist has the following exchange with his muse:

Dot: Are you working on something new?
George: No.
Dot: That is not like you, George.
George: I’ve nothing to say.
Dot: You have many things.
George: Well, nothing that’s not been said.
Dot: Said by you, though, George.

We all have stories to tell, and is our unique differences which bring new light and understanding to stories told before.  Find the “scent” within you, whatever makes you special, and share it with others. Only by sharing our stories and living authentically can we ever hope to change the world.

The debut novel of Kergan Edwards-Stout, Songs for the New Depression, was loosely inspired by his partner, Shane Sawick.  It recently won the 2012 Next Generation Indie Book Award in the LGBTQ category and was shortlisted in the same category for the Independent Literary Awards.   He writes regularly for Huffington Post, Bilerico Project, and LGBTQ Nation, as well as on his blog, KerganEdwards-Stout.

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