Victoria Noe

Award-winning Author, Speaker, Activist



Recommended Reading for World AIDS Day

Recommended Reading for World AIDS Day
Nov 26, 2019 by Victoria Noe
Sunday, December 1 is World AIDS Day. This year’s theme is “Ending the Global HIV/AIDS Epidemic: Community to Community”. I don’t remember a theme to the first observance in 1988. But this year I thought I’d recommend a few books from a community that isn’t always included in discussions about the epidemic: women.

All of these women have written about the epidemic, fiction and nonfiction. Luckily, more women are writing, like Rae Lewis-Thornton, whose memoir, Unprotected, is coming in 2020. In an odd bit of serendipity or karma or fate or timing, five of the seven women mentioned on this page wrote their books from the Chicago area. You’ll be hearing more about that coincidence soon.

For too long, the literature of...

Remembering Absent Friends

Remembering Absent Friends
Nov 01, 2019 by Victoria Noe
It’s that time of year. The time of year when death and grief seem to be everywhere.

Yesterday was Halloween, when children and adults dress in costume, many as ghosts and skeletons. We sit in cemeteries at night, waiting for ghostly apparitions, or maybe just the Great Pumpkin.

Today is All Saints’ Day, when we remember the saints and their importance in church tradition.

Tomorrow is All Souls’ Day, when we reflect on the lives of those we loved.

Day of the Dead.

Guy Fawkes Day.

Lots of loss for one week, isn’t it?

Once again, I’m sharing information on a unique festival taking place the first week of November in Scotland: To Absent Friends.

Scotland has a tradition of storytelling, especially at this time of the year....

When Friend Grief Hits Home

When Friend Grief Hits Home
Oct 10, 2019 by Victoria Noe
There have been a lot of important stories in the news lately. So it was easy to miss a small story in late July.

Betsy Ebeling was a suburban Chicago woman whose death was noted because of who her best friend was: Hillary Rodham Clinton. Though the obituary made clear that she was loved and admired by everyone who met her, the friendship that began in 6th grade was the one that defined her in the public eye.

A few hours after this story broke, while I was making dinner, my phone chimed with an incoming text message. It was from one of my oldest and dearest friends. The text was about his health and was not good news. 

The details are not...

Finding Grace on a Metro Platform

Finding Grace on a Metro Platform
Oct 04, 2019 by Victoria Noe
It's been quite a while since I blogged. The absence was not intentional. Two weeks of travel, the death of one of my dearest friends, and severe bronchitis have brought my daily life to a screeching halt. But in the midst of so much stress, there have been some wonderful moments. None as wonderful as this:


I spent the weekend after Labor Day in Washington, DC at the US Conference on AIDS. There was a lot of focus on long-term survivors, as well as how to serve the unique needs of those aging with HIV. As usual, it was an intense 3-½ days, which this year included a book signing in the A&U Magazine booth for the book I’d first started...

Book Review - Nurses on the Inside

Book Review - Nurses on the Inside
Jul 13, 2019 by Victoria Noe
“Not everyone knows what you know.”

That has been a mantra of mine for many years. It has served me well in public speaking, in interviews and in my writing. Nurses on the Inside: Stories of the HIV/AIDS Epidemic in NYC by Ellen Matzer and Valery Hughes is a great example of why it’s so important to share what we know with those who don’t.

Things we take for granted today like case management and universal precautions were unheard of before the AIDS epidemic became publicly known in 1981. One of the great strengths of this book is documenting how treatment changed, so that the reader can fully understand the evolution of critical care nursing when confronting this frightening new virus.

They pull no punches,...

Friend Grief and Pride

Friend Grief and Pride
Jul 05, 2019 by Victoria Noe

This year was a special one: the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall uprising. Some call it a riot, though there’s some debate about whether the resistance to yet another police raid at the Stonewall Inn on June 28, 1969 fit that definition. But it was momentous.

It was a time when being arrested in a raid at a gay bar meant not only legal hassles, but the likely prospect of your name being reported in the local paper the following day. And since you were most certainly closeted at the time, that publicity could get you fired, evicted or worse.

The LGBT community has come a long way, so there was a lot to celebrate at Pride parades around the world last...

HIV Long-Term Survivor Awareness Day

HIV Long-Term Survivor Awareness Day
May 31, 2019 by Victoria Noe
In 2015, this essay won the Christopher Hewitt Award for Creative Nonfiction. I'm sharing it again today, in advance of June 5, which is HIV Long-Term Survivor Day. I never thought of myself as a long-term survivor, but I was assured I fit the definition. 



"Long-Term Survivor"

It’s only the past few years that that designation has become widely used. Hell, no one expected it would ever be possible. There was a time when my only prayer was to get through a week without reading the obituary of someone I knew or admired from afar.

Since many who have reached that milestone are also baby boomers like me, I’ve taken a special interest in their challenges. During a visit to New York, I...

Time to Carry On a Friend's Work

Time to Carry On a Friend's Work
May 18, 2019 by Victoria Noe
Peter Staley, Jim Eigo, Andy Velez, Eric Sawyer, Jay Blotcher. Photo by Jennifer Morton

I had a blog post ready for this week. Well, not quite ready, but it was getting there. Then on Tuesday, a post popped up in my Facebook newsfeed:

A man of great heart, deep conviction, and scalding wit has been taken from us. Veteran AIDS activist and ACT UP New York member Andrew Velez died today (May 14) in a Manhattan hospice. He was 80.

It stopped me cold (partly because I had no idea he was anywhere near 80). I knew Andy had had some serious health challenges last year, though I didn’t think much of it. The community was rallying around...

What Kind of Author Are You?

What Kind of Author Are You?
Apr 30, 2019 by Victoria Noe
I’m not talking about genre. I’m not talking about pantser vs. plotter. I’m not talking about introverted or extroverted. I’m talking about your social media presence.

We’re all familiar with authors who post strident, desperate “BUY MY BOOK!” notices on their social media pages. They lament infinitesimal drops in Amazon rankings and newsletter subscribers, and the unfairness of publishing in general. Their focus is always, relentlessly, on their sales.

They’re exhausting.

But many people don’t know how to present themselves on social media without the constant use of a bullhorn. And if you’re a writer for the long-haul, you need to carve out a unique place for yourself. Getting noticed isn’t easy, unless you’re one of those annoying people. So how about making...

The Post-Book Launch Glow

The Post-Book Launch Glow
Apr 20, 2019 by Victoria Noe
I’ve had two book launch events in the last two weeks: one in Chicago, one in New York City, both at indie bookstores. Both events had delicious cakes that looked like the book cover.

This book - Fag Hags, Divas and Moms: The Legacy of Straight Women in the AIDS Community - is very different than the Friend Grief series I wrote. It’s longer and more complicated, being published almost five years to the day after I first got the idea for it. My production team - editor, cover designer, interior designer - was different. I hired a publicist, for the first time ever. Like I said, very different.

But the biggest difference is that so many people were invested in this...

A Special Women's History Month

A Special Women's History Month
Mar 28, 2019 by Victoria Noe
It’s been almost five years since the idea for my next book popped into my head.

On April 1, 2014, I was at the New York Public Library for a panel discussion: “The Women of ACT UP/NY! Fight Back! Fight AIDS!” A group of accomplished women - straight and lesbians - talked about the things they’d accomplished that changed the AIDS epidemic. The most significant one was arguably a four year battle to change the definition of AIDS to include women. Until 1992, the government and insurance companies defined AIDS by how it presented in men.

I knew most of the stories they told, though many in the audience, including my 19 year old daughter, did not. I remember thinking,...

Another Celebrity Friend Dies

Another Celebrity Friend Dies
Feb 24, 2019 by Victoria Noe
I confess to being fascinated by the response when a celebrity dies. Few, if any, of those posting online tributes had ever met that person, much less counted them as a friend. But they still considered that person to be at least ‘like’ a friend.

When David Bowie and Prince died, the tributes went on for months. People shared their favorite songs and what the music meant to them. Some even changed their avatars, in honor. I suppose that was understandable: Bowie and Prince were superstars, well-known around the world, with long, ground-breaking careers.  So it surprised me this week when the death of a lesser star provoked almost equally strong sentiments.

Peter Tork was part of a 1966 phenomenon: The Monkees....

The Soundtrack of My Writing

The Soundtrack of My Writing
Feb 07, 2019 by Victoria Noe
I’m almost ten years out from my concussion. It was the first one documented, though it’s very likely it was the second. Over the years I’ve learned how to control the side effects so they don’t overwhelm me. Silence is my default remedy.

Well, not total silence. When I work at home, I’m usually sitting at the dining room table, which at the moment is covered with research, drafts and notes. Our house is on an alley, across from an auto body shop. As you can imagine, total silence is rare. I hear cars going too fast until they hit the speed bump, garbage trucks emptying bins, the ‘beep’ of trucks backing up. But when you live in a city, you...

Today I'm 8

Today I'm 8
Feb 02, 2019 by Victoria Noe
God bless Facebook Memories.

Thanks to that sometimes annoying, sometimes entertaining feature, I was reminded that my first blog post was eight years ago today.

I’d just returned from my first writing conference in New York. I’d spent a little over a year starting the research for what would become the Friend Grief series. I was in a writing group that was helping me observe and listen and be a better writer. But I’d never been to a writing conference before.

My only social media experience was a couple years on Facebook, and that was pretty much 100% social. Pre-conference, we’d been asked to life-tweet during our sessions. Tweet? You mean on Twitter? Yikes. On the way there, I signed up for...

Writer's Block...or is it?

Writer's Block...or is it?
Jan 23, 2019 by Victoria Noe

I didn’t write a blog post last week.

Writer’s block is something that most - if not all - writers experience at some time. Even non-writers recall the panic of sitting down to write a term paper and having no idea where to begin.

A writer friend of mine described her situation as scraping the bottom of the barrel. I’ve read her scrapings. We should all be so lucky to write scrapings like hers.

What if it’s not writer’s block? What if it’s something else?

It may be news to some, but writers are human beings. Their lives are filled with the usual things: relationships, bills, traffic, grocery shopping, doctor appointments. Sometimes those things run smoothly. Sometimes they...

The Joys of Binge-Reading

The Joys of Binge-Reading
Jan 13, 2019 by Victoria Noe
Laura Linney and Olympia Dukakis

Several years ago I found myself in Brooklyn, at Armistead Maupin’s signing for the final book in the Tales of the City series, The Days of Anna Madrigal. I had fond memories of the mini-series on PBS, of the colorful characters who lived in Barbary Lane in pre-AIDS San Francisco, and had read most of the books. I was there to experience Maupin in person, and the unexpected thrill of seeing Laura Linney, who played Mary Ann Singleton, in the audience was a bonus. But I put the book aside. I knew I’d have to refresh my memory before digging into it. Sometime later I decided that my reward for writing my...

Focus, Distractions, and Pie

Focus, Distractions, and Pie
Jan 04, 2019 by Victoria Noe
The beginning of a new year finds most of us clutching to lists of things we hope to accomplish in the next twelve months. For writers, that can mean finishing a book, signing with an agent, or just perfecting their craft.

I have a friend who’s writing a memoir right now. Actually, I have several friends who are writing memoirs, but this one is doing something a bit extreme. Always involved on social media, he’s taking a four month break to finish the first draft of his memoir. No gradual withdrawal, no plans for regular check-ins with friends and followers. No social media until May 1st. None.

Well, I admire him for his commitment. He’s been working on the memoir most of...

In Memoriam

In Memoriam
Dec 19, 2018 by Victoria Noe
Around the middle of December - and on awards shows throughout the year - various organizations solemnly share their list of prominent people who died in the previous twelve months. Often we forget about someone who died early in the year. We rate the list, using it to gauge just how bad a year it was. Some years the sense of loss is overwhelming. This has been one of those years, and not just for me.

My mother died in March, but I’m not alone in experiencing that kind of grief this year.

There was Peter’s father and Sandra’s mother. John’s mother and Sarah’s mother. Jackie’s father and Fred’s mother. Kathy’s cousin and mother both died within two weeks time.

My husband is...

Another World AIDS Day - Part 2

Another World AIDS Day - Part 2
Dec 08, 2018 by Victoria Noe
Tuesday night I was honored to be on the program for the Alexian Brothers Housing and Health Alliance World AIDS Day event here in Chicago. About twenty people took to the stage to recite poetry, sing, play guitar or piano, tell stories. The mistress of ceremonies was a drag queen. It all felt very familiar and comforting.

Almost thirty years ago, Bonaventure House, their housing program for people with HIV/AIDS, was one of my clients. I wrote government and foundation grants for them. So when I found out they were hosting this event, I wanted to be part of it.

It was also the first time I’ve spoken in front of an audience since my mother’s graveside service in March. I wasn’t...

Another World AIDS Day

Another World AIDS Day
Nov 30, 2018 by Victoria Noe
December 1, 1988

I was in London at a performance of the The Secret of Sherlock Holmes with Jeremy Brett and Edward Hardwicke. At the end of the curtain call, Brett made a brief speech. It was, he explained, the first World AIDS Day, and the ushers were about to circulate around the house with buckets, collecting donations for local AIDS service organizations. I dropped some money in the bucket and filed that idea away, not realizing I’d use it back in Chicago on the second World AIDS Day. And here we are, thirty years later.

I have a lot of friends who are long-term survivors. There was a time when long-term meant a couple of years, not decades. The fact that...