Victoria Noe

Award-winning Author, Speaker, Activist

blogpage

Blog

"Writing Comes Last"

"Writing Comes Last"
Nov 02, 2017 by Victoria Noe
I was having lunch with one of my best friends. We’ve known each other since high school (LBJ was still president), so that’s a long time.

She’s been a successful writer for decades and now our occasional lunches include swapping information and commiserating about the business.

The past year has been a challenge for both of us, particularly health-wise. We’ve both faced medical situations that were unexpected and physically demanding. But we’re past them (knock wood). And because life itself is complicated and messy, there are continuing, long-term challenges unrelated to our health.

At one point she ticked off a list of everything and finished with, “And writing comes last.”

I’ve been self-employed most of my life, working from home. A lot of people...

What a Difference a Year Makes

What a Difference a Year Makes
Oct 25, 2017 by Victoria Noe
Nov. 1, 2016

Every morning Facebook shows me Memories from my newsfeed: posts I shared on that day in previous years. Some of them are funny. Some are occasionally sad, like birthday greetings for a friend who died.

Lately, those Memories have led off with my posts from my trip to New York a year ago. I was there to interview women for my next book and do more research at the New York Public Library’s Lincoln Center branch. As luck would have it, I was able to catch a couple of presentations that were related to my research.

As the Memories pop up each morning, I’m amazed at how much I accomplished and how excited I was. My...

Putting Pen to Paper: The First Draft

Putting Pen to Paper: The First Draft
Oct 19, 2017 by Victoria Noe
winghill.com

Next week I head back to New York. My creative juices flow freely there and it’s time - actually a little past time - to crank out the first draft of my next book.

I’m rushing to finish reading some books for research and photocopy pages I’ll need to refer to while I write. I have dozens of files to pack, along with some poster-sized Post-Its to keep track of my progress. I won’t know until I’m into it which chapters are light, so I have a list of women to add if necessary. I have my audio recordings of some two dozen interviews that lasted anywhere from 45 minutes to well over two hours.

I’m staying at...

In Praise of Librarians

In Praise of Librarians
Oct 12, 2017 by Victoria Noe
The Catholic elementary school I attended was too small to have a library, so every time my grandmother took me to the local public library I checked out the maximum number of books. I read a lot and always finished them long before they were due.

Sr. Rosemary was the librarian at my high school. She did not tolerate talking, laughing or other manifestations of bad behavior. Her glare was enough to stop anyone who didn’t have a death wish. Forty years later, I was sitting in the dining room of the nuns’ motherhouse in Kentucky when I felt someone staring at me. A nun a few tables over was watching me, with a look that instantly inspired fear: what did...

"Marked Herself Safe"

"Marked Herself Safe"
Oct 04, 2017 by Victoria Noe
Monday morning was not like most mornings. Like you, I awoke to news of the massacre in Las Vegas. I turned on my computer and logged onto Facebook, where I saw a post from my nephew:

 

“Marked Himself Safe” Safe from what? Is that some kind of joke? It was not a joke: he was in Las Vegas. Then a friend also posted, “Marked Himself Safe”.

But the person I first thought of, a friend of 18 years who lives in Las Vegas, did not post anything. She used to work on the Strip and goes to a lot of concerts. There was no post.

After 9/11, there was no easy way to find out if friends or family were safe. Phone and internet service was...

5 Things That Make Me Feel Like a Successful Writer

5 Things That Make Me Feel Like a Successful Writer
Sep 28, 2017 by Victoria Noe
I’ve been thinking a lot about success in my writing career. It’s been much more difficult than I imagined, both the success and defining it:

When I was a stage manager, success meant a performance went off smoothly, with no major problems, as the director intended. When I was a fundraiser, it meant an event that raised its goal or more, or a grant proposal that was funded. When I sold children’s books to school librarians, I felt successful when my customers were happy with their orders.

Writing, though, is different. So here are five things that make me feel successful: Sales. Duh. I’m nowhere near being a best-selling author on any prominent lists. In fact, my sales are nowhere near where I’d hope....

On the Road at Author Events

On the Road at Author Events
Sep 21, 2017 by Victoria Noe
I have three events in the next few weeks, none of them in Chicago, where I live.

First up this Saturday is the 3rd annual Author Fair at Princeton (IL) Public Library. Princeton is located just south of I-80, a bit north of Peoria. The library hosts a lovely author fair each year, with interesting authors selling terrific books in a variety of genres. This is a picture of me with Jessica Cage, another Chicago author, in Princeton two years ago. She won’t be there this year, but the following week I’ll see her at...

Penned Con! This is my first appearance at Penned Con, a huge author/reader event in St. Louis that supports autism being held September 29-30. There are some...

The Grief That Takes You By Surprise

The Grief That Takes You By Surprise
Sep 13, 2017 by Victoria Noe
Too many of my friends have lost parents this year. No matter what your age, it’s a shock to navigate that kind of grief. But as we grow older, we witness the deaths of the generations ahead of us: great-grandparents (if you’re lucky, like me), grandparents, parents/aunts/uncles. It’s normal. Expected. But then there are the losses that don’t feel normal, that aren’t expected. Your friends.

My father was 75 when he died, the first one in his group of friends. They’d lost their parents long ago, but none of them had ever lost a close friend. And though at their ages that might sound like they were in denial, they weren’t. They knew it was possible. They just didn’t expect it to...

Headshots for Writers: To Smile or Not to Smile?

Headshots for Writers: To Smile or Not to Smile?
Sep 06, 2017 by Victoria Noe
Mary Engelbreit

I hate having my picture taken.

I can count on one hand the photos of myself that I like. Either there’s glare from my glasses, or my hair is a mess, or I look like my grandmother. There are no bad pictures of my husband: the camera loves him. It just doesn’t love me.

So when writers say they just want to stay home and write, I understand. Even with a master’s degree in theatre, I don’t seek the spotlight. That’s why I became a stage manager and director. I’m comfortable on stage, at a podium, on a panel. But I don’t crave the attention.

I was overdue for a new, professional head shot. I’m appearing at some...

Who Cares About Your Story?

Who Cares About Your Story?
Aug 30, 2017 by Victoria Noe
“I can’t believe anyone cares about this.” That was the response from a woman who will be in my next book, Fag Hags, Divas and Moms: The Legacy of Straight Women in the AIDS Community. I was on a panel with another writer, who mentioned that her sister-in-law’s involvement in the AIDS community during the dark days of the epidemic might be of interest to me. Her story - which will be in the book - is not just interesting: it’s unique and powerful and almost completely unknown, even among those who have been involved in the cause for decades.

Her reaction to being asked permission to include her in my book was not unusual. Many of the people I’ve interviewed -...

Rebooting My Writing Career at a Writing Conference

Rebooting My Writing Career at a Writing Conference
Aug 23, 2017 by Victoria Noe
There comes a point in every writing conference when you feel like your brain is mush. You’ve had dozens of conversations with other writers, sat in on multiple workshops, taken notes, asked questions, had a few drinks. You’re there to be a sponge: to soak up as much information as possible to help your writing, both craft and business. Usually for me, this happens late Saturday afternoon, the end of the second of three days. I know Sunday will be a shorter schedule, but seriously, can my brain handle any more information? Last week at Writer’s Digest Conference I was in a different place than I had been in previous years. The first year I knew nothing. After that, I was...

Inspired by a Friend's Death

Inspired by a Friend's Death
Aug 16, 2017 by Victoria Noe
It’s a great feature, isn’t it, when Facebook reminds you of a friend’s birthday? We all get caught up in our daily lives and sometimes we forget, so I’m all for anything that helps.  It didn’t feel so great last week, though, when it reminded me of Jo Stewart’s birthday. Jo died last year. Jo was the leader of my first writing group: poet, creative writing professor, force of nature. The group grew out of a life-story writing class because we got along and didn’t want to stop meeting. It lasted six years, until Penny died. The rest of us didn’t feel like meeting without her. The last time I saw Jo, at a holiday lunch for the second group she...

Setting Your Goals for a Writing Conference

Setting Your Goals for a Writing Conference
Aug 09, 2017 by Victoria Noe
        My first Pitch Slam Yesterday I told my daughter, “I need to get my shit together about this trip.” The trip I leave for in a week is to New York. I wasn’t referring to packing. What I need to get together are my goals for part of that trip. I’ll be there about a week, with interviews scheduled for my next book (Fag Hags, Divas and Moms: The Legacy of Straight Women in the AIDS Community). These will be some of my last face-to-face interviews before I settle down to start writing. I’ve already sat down with about thirty women, so I’m not worried about a lot of preparation for these. It’s the...

Facebook and Friend Grief

Facebook and Friend Grief
Aug 02, 2017 by Victoria Noe
They seem to come in waves, don’t they? Sometimes it feels like all your friends are getting married or having babies. Your calendar is filled with shopping, christenings, weddings and showers. And then there are the times when it feels like your friends are all dying.

Facebook has always been a good news/bad news kind of social media site. One day you love it for connecting you with long-lost friends or keeping you up to date on the latest in their lives. Other days you hate it for the annoying humble bragging posts that set your teeth on edge.

So far this summer two friends of mine have died. Both were women I worked with long ago, in two different professions, from...

The People in My Books

The People in My Books
Jul 27, 2017 by Victoria Noe
Brooke Russell Astor Reading Room - New York Public Library

While writing the Friend Grief series and now while writing Fag Hags, Divas and Moms: The Legacy of Straight Women in the AIDS Community, a lot of people have asked how I go about finding the people who wind up in my books.

I wish I could say I had a well thought out plan that follows a logical step-by-step process. But I don’t. I may give the appearance of being super-organized, but most of the time I feel like I’m in the eye of the hurricane.

I’m not going to lie: my least favorite class in grad school was Introduction to Graduate Research. I hated it because it...

Writer with a To-Do List

Writer with a To-Do List
Jul 19, 2017 by Victoria Noe
I’m sitting here at Panera, breakfast sandwich eaten, ice tea at hand. My computer’s on, my to-do list is front of me. And I’m paralyzed.

Not literally (no pun intended). I can move. My brain just can’t decide what to do.

Should I follow up on that article that a website requested? Should I pitch a presentation to a library? Should I invite someone to lunch to pick their brain about a marketing idea? Should I score the essays I read for the contest I’m judging?

No?

Well, then, should I finish one of the six books I’m reading for research on my next book? Should I schedule tweets and Facebook posts? Should I reach out to someone on another continent on collaborating? Should...

Do Writers Take Summer Vacation?

Do Writers Take Summer Vacation?
Jul 13, 2017 by Victoria Noe
ebooks4writers.com

Remember summer vacation?

Back in the days when I was a fundraising consultant, the period from Thanksgiving to mid-January was my slow time. End of the year direct mail appears had already gone out, events were wrapped up, grant proposal deadlines met. I don’t remember taking time off, though. I used those weeks to create my marketing plan for the coming year and try to get my paperwork in order for taxes. Just how long that down time lasted depended on how good a year my clients had:  the worse their end-of-year numbers, the earlier they called me in January.

Now that I’m writing, I don’t have a clear down time. There are a lot of writing conferences,...

How This Writer Found Her Street Team

How This Writer Found Her Street Team
Jun 29, 2017 by Victoria Noe
writingforward.com

I knew next to nothing when I seriously committed to writing. An impulsive idea - to write a book about people grieving their friends - led to a series of six small books. The writers I knew all wrote romance or historical fiction, not nonfiction. I had no contacts. So I did what I’d done in my previous careers: I researched online and off. I attended my first writing conference. I took online courses. I joined a writing group. And all of that helped. But the thing that helped the most was not deliberate, not part of any grandiose career plan: I built a street team.

I had to push any ego aside, which was easier than...

When Life Gets in the Way of Writing

When Life Gets in the Way of Writing
Jun 22, 2017 by Victoria Noe
                   lovingonme.com

If you've read this blog for any length of time,  you know I've spent almost two years working on a new book. Fag Hags. Divas and Moms: The Legacy of Straight Women in the AIDS Community has taken on a life of its own. What started as a nagging idea turned into what I fully admit is an obsession to share important, previously-unknown stories of straight women around the world throughout the history of the epidemic.

Big project, right? I knew from the beginning it would be, but with each passing month it seemed to grow in scope and importance. Strangers around the world offered assistance. Interviewees laughed...

How Long Should You Grieve Your Friend?

How Long Should You Grieve Your Friend?
Jun 14, 2017 by Victoria Noe
You know how it is: a conversation, a song, a place triggers a memory of your friend. Your first thought may be "I haven't thought about that in years". Your second - and third and fourth and fifth - thought is about your friend and the hole in your life since they died. We don't do grief well. It's messy and uncomfortable and all too clear a reminder of our own mortality. So we do what most of us do best: we push it aside. We assign time limits - seven days sitting shiva, three days off from work for the death of a parent (probably none for a friend). When those around us don't conform to our desire to return...