Victoria Noe

Award-winning Author, Speaker, Activist

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An Embarrassment of Riches

An Embarrassment of Riches
May 31, 2018 by Victoria Noe
My color coded files last fall.

You’d think I’d be used to this by now.

I write nonfiction and over the past eight years I’ve done research on a variety of topics related to my books: moral injury, the AIDS epidemic, 9/11, military procedures, men’s health and always, grief. There is no shortage of material available on the internet, in films and TV shows, in poetry and song lyrics, in clinical trials, books and magazine articles.

One of my guilty pleasures is finding a resource that is both appropriate and obscure. Sometimes they’re found in books that have been out of print for decades; I found one in London last month at Gay’s the Word bookstore.  Sometimes they’re...

Memorial Day for the Friends Left Behind

Memorial Day for the Friends Left Behind
May 24, 2018 by Victoria Noe
Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery

The first funeral I ever went to for someone close to my age was 50 years ago this summer (and no, I can’t believe it’s been that long).

I grew up with Marianne and Ernie. Marianne was my senior big sister when I was freshman in high school. Ernie, her older brother, was studying to be a priest. I don’t remember why he left the seminary but after a year of teaching high school, he was drafted. A week after he arrived in Vietnam, he was reported missing. I remember arguing at my 16th birthday sleepover that surely he would be found alive, but that didn’t happen. A month later, his body was...

Rebooting Your Writing

Rebooting Your Writing
May 16, 2018 by Victoria Noe
I stepped back from most of my writing a few days before Christmas. That’s when my mother broke her hip and had surgery. In the weeks that followed, as she struggled through rehab, I, too struggled to write. I kept up my blog and my email newsletters (with varying degrees of success). But by the time she died March 16, I wasn’t writing at all. It’s been two months now, months where my only writing was limited to thank you notes,  filling out legal and financial forms and paying bills.

Because I’d been suffering from a recurrence of symptoms related to post-concussive syndrome, I checked in with my neurologist the week after my mother’s funeral. He’s a big fan of...

The Disadvantage of Writing About Grief

The Disadvantage of Writing About Grief
May 09, 2018 by Victoria Noe
                  thegiftofwriting.com

“Well, you write about grief, so this is…”

The woman at my mother’s wake didn’t finish her sentence. It just kind of faded with her shrug. She didn’t quite know how to get out of the hole she’d dug for herself. But I’m pretty sure the ending she was looking for was “easier for you”. I have to admit I didn’t offer her any help.

Many people who write about grief are trained, certified professionals. They’re psychologists, therapists, chaplains, counselors. For some of them, grief was what inspired their careers. The rest of us are not professionally trained. But we all have one thing in common: we experience grief....

Not Everyone Knows What You Know

Not Everyone Knows What You Know
Mar 15, 2018 by Victoria Noe
lifesuccess.com

We all know things: some trivial, some important. We learned them in school, in the home, on the streets, at work. We know so many things, in fact, we may not realize that there are people out there who do not share our depth of knowledge.

In conversations with dozens of doctors and nurses these past few weeks, I’ve noticed that many, if not most, are good at explaining things. They tell me about a procedure or options in medical jargon. I know a fair amount, but not everything, so I ask them to explain. Most of them are not annoyed.

A few, though, are insulted. They don’t feel the need to explain themselves; after all, they’re the...

I Am Not A Sandwich

I Am Not A Sandwich
Mar 07, 2018 by Victoria Noe
You see them at Nordstrom or neighborhood diners or in cafeterias: middle-aged women (occasionally men) and an older parent. The child is in charge without letting the parent know they’re in charge. They explain the menu to them, ask questions of the wait staff, smiling though the tension that’s alway there. Sometimes they help their parent walk, or cut their food. Their conversations are superficial: the food, the temperature in the room, the noise, maybe family news.

Occasionally their cell phone rings. They look down, annoyed, debating if they should answer, but when they do, it’s almost always work-related. You can see their bodies tense up more when they speak, juggling some new complication in their already jammed lives.

I’m one of...

"You Could Write a Book About This"

"You Could Write a Book About This"
Feb 28, 2018 by Victoria Noe
My mother made that suggestion on Sunday, as I sat on the bed in her hospital room. A long-awaited doctor visit on Friday morning took an unexpected turn when a severe infection was discovered. We were sent to the ER across the street and she was admitted to the hospital for treatment.

Mom has read all my books. “You were always the smartest one in the family,” she insisted, though I did not agree. My parents always believed I could do anything, even when I didn’t believe it myself. She even knows some of the people in my books, including my friend, Delle Chatman, who inspired me to write in the first place.

It’s been almost 13 years since my father died...

"For They Shall Be Comforted"

"For They Shall Be Comforted"
Feb 21, 2018 by Victoria Noe
Beverly Review

When Ron Howard filmed Backdraft in Chicago in 1991, a call went out for extras. The funeral procession at the end of the movie required a couple hundred firefighters in dress uniforms to march down Michigan Avenue. It’s a powerful scene made more powerful by the inclusion of firefighters from around the area who offered their services. In fact, 5,000 volunteered.

So it was no surprise that when Chicago Police Commander Paul Bauer was killed last week, his wake and funeral were full of men and women in uniform. The six-hour visitation, at Nativity of Our Lord Church, required a three-hour wait in line for those who came to pay their respects. Most of those people...

When Your Friend's Death is in the Headlines

When Your Friend's Death is in the Headlines
Feb 15, 2018 by Victoria Noe
Cmdr. Paul Bauer

I didn’t listen to the radio in the car as I drove back to Chicago from St. Louis yesterday, so it wasn’t until I turned on the TV that I saw the breaking news. A Chicago police commander had been shot to death downtown, in the state office building. There was something about a suspicious person, a robbery attempt, but no name given.

My husband was preparing for his organization’s annual meeting that evening when he texted, asking if I was home. When I replied that I was, he called to tell me that the officer was the commander he’s worked with for years, Paul Bauer. What had not been the best of days became...

A Winter Olympics Story within a Story

A Winter Olympics Story within a Story
Feb 06, 2018 by Victoria Noe
theplayerstribune.com

People love surprises. Well, I don’t, but that’s a different story. The kind of surprises I like are an unexpected twist in the plot of a movie or book. Sometimes the surprise is shocking, sometimes funny. And sometimes, it’s life-changing.

The Winter Olympics begin soon in PyeongChang, South Korea. Like most big sports events, human interest stories about the athletes are featured in the media. It’s a way of making a connection with these talented (mostly) young people at the height of their careers. Once you feel like you ‘know’ them, you’re more likely to tune in to their events and maybe others as well.

This morning I was reading an article about an athlete already in the...

Dead Friends in My Address Book

Dead Friends in My Address Book
Jan 24, 2018 by Victoria Noe
My address book

I have an address book. A real, honest-to-God address book. I’m not sure when I got it, but it’s at least 25 years old. There are tabs for each letter of the alphabet. Each entry includes lines for name, address and phone number. And it’s a mess. Sometimes I correct addresses and phone numbers, sometimes I just tear off the return address from their latest Christmas card and stick it in the front.

Recently, I had reason to go through my mother’s address book. She’s almost 89, and I was a bit surprised that she updated hers in a way I didn’t: she noted when a friend died.

I’ve gone through mine - mostly during the...

What's Your Word of the Year?

What's Your Word of the Year?
Jan 17, 2018 by Victoria Noe
elizabethrider.com

A lot of friends of mine have decided to pick a word as their theme, their mantra for 2018. Some have chosen interesting words like ‘fearless’ or ‘joy’. Mary Schmich, in the Chicago Tribune, shared some of her readers’ choices. For a while, the whole thing struck me as silly.

I don’t make New Year’s resolutions, though I am fond of to-do lists. I made a list of goals for my writing this year. I will probably fall short, but that’s okay. I’ll be happy if I only meet half of them because that will mean that I’m working smarter than I did last year.

Having said that, the idea of picking one word for my mantra started...

Old Friends

Old Friends
Jan 11, 2018 by Victoria Noe
The title of this week’s blog post is one of my favorite Simon & Garfunkel songs. I was a teenager when the song was released, and the old friends sitting on a park bench were not people I related to. They were...old. They were slow-moving. Nothing like me or my friends.

But time has a way of changing things. There are friends in my life who I’ve known for decades. Some have stayed in my life continuously. Others - and I think this is more typical - have moved in and out. But as I get older, those friends are the ones who have moved closer.

I’ve watched my 88 year old mother’s world shrinking as friends and family members die. But...

A New Year! A New Me?

A New Year! A New Me?
Jan 04, 2018 by Victoria Noe
bookcovercafe.com

Every January 1st, people make New Year’s resolutions. They commit to making changes: positive changes. Some want to lose weight, exercise more, travel. Others hope to change careers or go back to school. And though I didn’t really make resolutions about my personal life (or rather, none I’m willing to share) I do have to make one big one in my writing life.

For years, the word many authors feared was ‘platform’. We were told we had to have one, had to build one, had to maintain it constantly - even if we weren’t quite sure what it was. Now I rarely hear that kind of advice given with the urgency I heard in 2011.

Now the...

The Last Blog Post of 2017

The Last Blog Post of 2017
Dec 21, 2017 by Victoria Noe
Deposit Photos

Like many of you, I’m a bit over-committed these days: presents to wrap (assuming they’re already bought), cards to mail, travel arrangements to finalize.

I started writing this blog post last week. It included a bunch of year-end helpful hints. And then I decided I wasn’t going to do that. Social media is full of year-end helpful hints. What I really needed to do was, well, look back.

Last December I was in rehab for my broken writing hand. I was still doing things with my left hand only: not just personal care but decorating the Christmas tree. Yes, I put on the ornaments and tinsel without breaking anything else, which was kind of a miracle....

Books for the Special People on Your Holiday List: Part 2

Books for the Special People on Your Holiday List: Part 2
Dec 14, 2017 by Victoria Noe
Last week I offered some shopping suggestions for the hard-to-buy people on your list. All turned out to be nonfiction and memoir by women. This week’s list is equally eclectic, with books by men and women this time.

For your writing group leader, who always begins your meetings with a writing prompt - Question of the Day: Where Truth is the Dare by Al Katkowsky

 

 

 

 

 

 

For the theatre fan in your life, as well as the person who can’t read enough history - Hamilton: The Revolution by Jeremy McCarter and Lin-Manuel Miranda

 

 

 

 

 

For nonfiction writers at all phases of their careers - Draft No. 4: On the Writing Process by John McPhee

 

 

 

 

 

For anyone curious about the experience of Muslim immigrants to the US, a very...

Books for the Special People on Your Holiday List: Part 1

Books for the Special People on Your Holiday List: Part 1
Dec 07, 2017 by Victoria Noe
I was inspired by Sandra Beckwith’s post on the Build Book Buzz blog, suggesting holiday gifts for writers. It got me thinking about books I've loved and love to give to friends. So in that spirit, here are a few I’d like to recommend. In the interest of full disclosure, most are by writers I know. All are by writers I admire.

For the Nasty Woman in your life - Nasty Women: Feminism, Resistance and Revolution in Trump’s America by Samhita Mukhopadhyay and Kate Harding

 

 

   

For the daughter who lives and loves basketball - Home Sweet Hardwood: A Title IX Trailblazer Breaks Through Barriers for Basketball by Pat McKinzie

 

 

 

 

 

 

For the friend looking for the courage to leave an abusive relationship - Ever...

World AIDS Day 2017

World AIDS Day 2017
Nov 28, 2017 by Victoria Noe
On the first World AIDS Day, 1988, I was in London enjoying a performance of The Secret of Sherlock Holmes, with Jeremy Brett and Edward Hardwicke reprising the BBC portrayals I watched on PBS. I was already starting to work in the AIDS community in Chicago: a little volunteering, an increasing amount of grant writing for new organizations that couldn’t afford to put a development person on staff. Gay men - famous and not - were disappearing, only to have their deaths attributed to ‘a long illness’. No one was fooled. We all knew what was going on.

Though it wasn’t why I went to London, I think I probably had some belief that I could get away from AIDS. As...

First Draft and Beyond

First Draft and Beyond
Nov 16, 2017 by Victoria Noe
I returned to Chicago on Sunday after almost three weeks away in New York. Like my trip there in May, I hunkered down on the upper west side to crank out the first draft of my next book (Fag Hags, Divas and Moms: The Legacy of Straight Women in the AIDS Community). How did I do? Well, that depends…

Word count: I had a specific word count in mind and I fell short. I got to 75% of the goal, which isn’t horrible, but not what I’d hoped. Why I fell short can be blamed on two things. First, I made the biggest mistake you can make on a first draft: I self-edited. I didn’t realize it until I was half-way...

Not My Time

Not My Time
Nov 09, 2017 by Victoria Noe
nytimes.com

I returned to the little hotel I’m staying at late afternoon on Halloween. Just as I walked in, an alert chimed. Before I could read it, the phone rang. It was my daughter, in London. That was odd. Since she left in September for grad school we only talked at prearranged times. When I answered, she was crying.  It took a couple minutes to figure out that she’d seen the alert before I did, though I was only a few miles away from what happened.

It was the terrorist attack in lower Manhattan, within sight of the 9/11 Memorial. That morning I’d chatted with someone from an organization that will be featured in my book. We discussed...