Victoria Noe

Award-winning Author, Speaker, Activist



What Do Writers Dream?

What Do Writers Dream?
Nov 23, 2018 by Victoria Noe

Let us make our future now, and let us make our dreams tomorrow’s reality. - Malala Yousafzai


A post popped up on Facebook a couple weeks ago that got my attention. It was an event involving the writer-in-residence at the Savoy Hotel in London.

I’ve had an unnatural obsession with the Savoy since at least high school; maybe earlier. I have no idea how it started, but I think it was sparked by this 1923 photo of Fred and Adele Astaire dancing on the Savoy’s roof. It’s a photo I still love: dancing on the roof, on a foggy day in London town. Maybe it’s the joy on their faces.

On my first trip to London in 1988 I spent as much...

Grieving a Friend After Another Midterm Election

Grieving a Friend After Another Midterm Election
Nov 07, 2018 by Victoria Noe
Delle Chatman

Twelve years ago today was a midterm election. The Democrats won both houses of Congress, as well as a majority of governorships and state legislatures. It was also the day my friend, Delle, died.

I knew it could happen any time. Her brother Gregory had emailed me that he was writing her obituary. She’d said her goodbyes and was surrounded by those she loved. Those who loved her comprised a much larger group, one too large to fit into her lakeside condo or even the ballroom of any downtown hotel.

I turned off my computer earlier than usual that evening, eager to watch the election returns, needing the distraction. So it was the next morning when I...

To Absent Friends

To Absent Friends
Nov 01, 2018 by Victoria Noe
Death and grieving occupy a very different place in society in the United Kingdom.

The first hospice was founded in a suburb of London in 1967. Bernard Crettaz hosted the first “Death Café” in Neuchatel, Switzerland in 2004, but the idea took off when Jon Underwood held one in his London home. In his words, the purpose is ‘to increase awareness of death with a view to helping people make the most of their (finite) lives’. I’ve hosted several myself in the Chicago area and can attest to the power of releasing the stigma of talking about death.

I’m not sure where I first heard someone offer “to absent friends” as a toast. It might’ve been one of those 1960s WWII...

Speak Your Mind, Even if Your Voice Shakes

Speak Your Mind, Even if Your Voice Shakes
Oct 25, 2018 by Victoria Noe
Writers are often told to keep politics out of their public lives: don’t post about issues or politicians (pro or con). Don’t wear buttons, put campaign signs in your windows, bumper stickers on your car. Don’t participate in marches or testify at public hearings.

That advice typically comes from traditional publishing: agents and publishers who are afraid of anything that might adversely affect sales and their personal bottom lines. It’s not necessarily bad advice.

If you know for a fact that your audience skews in a certain political direction and you are the polar opposite, you very well may lose readers by sharing your views. There’s always the chance that you will gain readers, but that’s not how the argument is framed....

The Right Writing Conference for Me

The Right Writing Conference for Me
Oct 11, 2018 by Victoria Noe
I drove to Cincinnati recently for a conference for indie authors. IndieLab was put on the same folks who produce the annual Writer’s Digest Conference that I attend in New York every year. This one was different, in many ways.

First, obviously, it was for indie authors. At other writing conferences, anyone who self-publishes is usually looked down on or ignored. The assumption is that you’re only doing ‘that’ (self-publishing) because you’re not good enough for a traditional deal or you’re hoping to attract a ‘real’ publisher. There’s a hierarchy, both implied and spoken.

So the atmosphere was very different at IndieLab. It was a much smaller conference than the mammoth WDC weekend. The size was a terrific advantage: no long...

My Hopes for My Book

My Hopes for My Book
Sep 27, 2018 by Victoria Noe
Every author has hopes and dreams for their work. Some aspire to make a lot of money; others want only to see their name on the cover of the book. Some want to become international celebrities; others hope to fill their mantel with awards. But there are other dreams as well. I would certainly like to make a lot of money from writing, though that hasn’t happened yet. My next book will be my seventh and it’s very different than the previous six. That presents its own challenges and opportunities: it’s the first book to consider the contributions of straight women in the AIDS community throughout the epidemic. My hopes are many:

That I know it’s the best book I could write.


Why Writers Can't Hit 'Send'

Why Writers Can't Hit 'Send'
Sep 21, 2018 by Victoria Noe
I wrote four drafts of my next book and shared it with a few beta readers before I sent it to my editor. I’m working with a different editor this time, so we’re getting used to working together. Nothing bad, believe me, just different. I knew there were glaring weaknesses, but I wasn’t prepared to see so much red ink when he returned the manuscript. If you think writing is hard, wait until you get to the editing phase.

It took me a solid month, 100+ hours to work through it. Editing takes more time, at least for me. I couldn’t work more than 4 hours a day on it without my brain turning to mush. That’s okay. No complaints.

This past...

You Can't Hurry Grief

You Can't Hurry Grief
Sep 12, 2018 by Victoria Noe
For some reason, a song made popular by both the Supremes and Phil Collins popped into my head: “You Can’t Hurry Love”.


I remember mama said, "you can't hurry love

No, you'll just have to wait"

She said, "love don't come easy

But it's a game of give and take"

You can't hurry love

No, you'll just have to wait

Just trust in a good time

No matter how long it takes.


It felt pretty obvious that the same thing applies to grief.

We grieve over many things: the death of someone we loved, the loss of a job or a home, the end of a wonderful experience, the breakup of a relationship. We grieve for the obvious reason that we loved that person or that time in our life....

Writing in the Summer - Part 2

Writing in the Summer - Part 2
Aug 30, 2018 by Victoria Noe
The Mermaid sundae from Big Gay Ice Cream

A few weeks ago I wrote about the beginning of my six-week trip to NYC. I had finally sent my manuscript to the editor and was surprised when he sent back the first chapter 48 hours later. Because Writer’s Digest Conference was starting in a few days, I was determined to power through that chapter before it started. I did, though not easily.

This was the 8th time I’ve attended the Writer’s Digest Conference here (9th if you count the one I went to in Los Angeles). The first year I knew less than nothing, but I fell in with a terrific group of writers who have remained trusted friends....

Writing vs. Marketing

Writing vs. Marketing
Aug 25, 2018 by Victoria Noe

I’ve been self-employed most of my adult life. I’ve worked at home with bulky word processors and fax machines, from 800 numbers to social media accounts. Writing, to me, has always been a business: not necessarily very lucrative, but a business nonetheless.

Recently I attended Writer’s Digest Conference in New York. WDC was my first writing conference in 2011 and I go back every year. Because of the constant changes in publishing, there is always a lot to learn. I take notes on my netbook during every session. If something is discussed that I need to apply to my own writing or business practices, I type it in boldface. Those are assembled into a new, intimidating to-do...

Writing in the Summer - Part 1

Writing in the Summer - Part 1
Aug 09, 2018 by Victoria Noe
I’ve been in New York City now for almost two weeks. The first ten days were spent in a mild - or not so mild - state of panic getting my manuscript ready for the editor. I have to pace myself: I learned the hard way that post-concussive syndrome will ruin my plans if I push too hard. I have to rest my brain. If I don’t, I lose the focus I need for my work.

I varied the places where I worked: my favorite tea parlor, three different branches of the NY Public Library, the place where I’m staying. That variety gave me a little boost in energy.

By the time I hit ‘send’ last Friday, I knew I...

Is Everyone Grieving or Is It Just Me?

Is Everyone Grieving or Is It Just Me?
Aug 01, 2018 by Victoria Noe
It started early last year, almost from New Year's Day.

Friends on Facebook posted news of the death of a parent or a sibling or a friend. And while I didn’t usually know the person who died, I found myself affected.

“Another one?” I’d find myself thinking when I logged online. This was much more than the stereotypical ‘death comes in threes’ that we can debate another time. This was every week. I stopped counting how many friends lost a parent last year, something that spilled over into this year. Since my own mother died in March, there have been more, including one this week.

You might say, “Well, we’re at that age.” And you wouldn’t be wrong. Statistically, people my age...

Choosing the Right Writing Conference

Choosing the Right Writing Conference
Jul 26, 2018 by Victoria Noe
I’ve been slowly getting back to normal in my writing career. I’m blogging regularly, sending out my email newsletters, going to networking meetings. My next book is at the beta readers right now and goes to the editor August 1. As you can imagine, I’m busy.

I haven’t been to a writing conference since last August’s Writer's Digest Conference. It’s my favorite, and I’m going again this year. This week I registered for a new and very different conference at the end of September, Indie Lab, also produced by F&W Media. And it gave me a chance to reflect on why I’m going.

Although they’re an investment in your career, conferences aren’t cheap. There’s the registration fee, travel, parking, meals, hotel....

A Reflection on The Great Believers

A Reflection on The Great Believers
Jul 04, 2018 by Victoria Noe
Since Rebecca Makkai doesn’t need another rave review of her new book The Great Believers, I thought it more appropriate to share my reaction to her sweeping novel that links the AIDS epidemic in 1985 Chicago to the art scene in 2015 Paris.

When I heard it was coming out, I was less than thrilled. I was almost three years into the research and writing of a nonfiction book about straight women in the AIDS community. Although her book is fiction - and overall, one of the best novels I’ve read in a very long time - I was momentarily concerned. Not concerned: panic-stricken. Another straight woman from Chicago writing about the AIDS epidemic? What are the odds? After an hour...

Remembering the Dead, One Name at a Time

Remembering the Dead, One Name at a Time
Jun 28, 2018 by Victoria Noe
I was watching Common Threads: Stories from the Quilt  the other day. The documentary was made in 1989, when the Quilt was fairly new. It was still small enough - small being a relative term - to be fully displayed on the National Mall. Now the Quilt contains over 48,000 panels, each measuring exactly 3’x6’.

I moved on to a newspaper interview with a woman who helped make her son’s panel. She remarked that every panel, every name, represented not just someone who died from AIDS, but all the people who loved them. That’s true of other memorials.

The Vietnam Veterans Memorial, also in Washington, was controversial when the design was first unveiled. A 21 year old woman, Maya Lin, daughter of...

Why You Have to Keep Writing in Crazy Times

Why You Have to Keep Writing in Crazy Times
Jun 20, 2018 by Victoria Noe
It’s hard to focus, isn’t it?

You don’t even have to be on Facebook or Twitter. Just watching the news is more than enough. No matter your political persuasion, it feels like the world is spinning out of control. The last time I felt that way was 1968. But this is different. I’ll write about that difference later, but not today. Today I’m going to tell you why your writing is still important.

There are writers who identify as ‘transformational’ or ‘inspirational’. I don’t. You probably don’t either. On a good day, you might think that what you write is mildly important. On a bad day you wonder why anyone would ever read anything you write. We all have those days, the...

Why I Love Doing Research for My Books

Why I Love Doing Research for My Books
Jun 14, 2018 by Victoria Noe
I can’t say I’ve always liked doing research.

The one universal requirement when I was in grad school at the University of Iowa was a truly painful class, “Intro to Graduate Research”. The fact that it was held at 8:00 am three days a week  - while I was up late in rehearsal and production most of that semester - made it almost unbearable. I sat in the last row, my back to wall, with another theatre student, as we tried unsuccessfully to stay awake for every class. What I remember most were endless discussions of footnotes. That defined “research” for me that semester.

But things looked up the following semester. I was writing my comprehensive exams on the development of the...

Grief and Depression

Grief and Depression
Jun 06, 2018 by Victoria Noe
My late father used to say that there should be a psychiatrist on every corner and they should be free.

Wouldn’t that be nice?

To have easy access to mental health support and not have to worry about co-pays, referrals or limits on coverage?

Damn right it would be nice.

But would it be enough?

The death of handbag designer Kate Spade shocked her friends and fans. A privileged, talented, successful woman living on Park Avenue who suffered from depression and certainly was able to obtain quality mental health support died by suicide.

As with most of these deaths, we’ll never know what led her to that decision. While the family knew of her struggles, many friends are left recounting past conversations, searching for clues...

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...