Victoria Noe

Award-winning Author, Speaker, Activist

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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...

Pride and Pulse: One Year Later

Pride and Pulse: One Year Later
Jun 08, 2017 by Victoria Noe
Monday is the first anniversary of the massacre at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, where 49 people were murdered and 58 others were injured.

The shooting happened during Pride Month, when members of the LGBT community, long driven underground, celebrate their freedom to love.

Pride is rooted in the Stonewall riots, not celebrations. During the plague years of the AIDS epidemic, Pride parades were one of the few opportunities to get the media to focus on the desperation of those times (though the film footage was almost always of the most outrageously dressed participants). In cities across the US, Pride parades included contingents from organizations that could help people get tested and treated. The bonus was always free condoms, tossed by...

HIV Long-Term Survivors Awareness Day

HIV Long-Term Survivors Awareness Day
May 31, 2017 by Victoria Noe
June 5 is HIV Long-Term Survivors Awareness Day, so I’m sharing my essay, "Long-Term Survivor", that won the 2015 Christopher Hewitt Award for Creative Nonfiction from A&U Magazine. Since then I’ve written more and presented on the topic of moral injury in long-term survivors, something that is close to my heart. We can’t help each other until we recognize the challenges. And for me, that meant admitting that I had challenges, too.

 

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...

The Ripples of Our Audience

The Ripples of Our Audience
May 24, 2017 by Victoria Noe
Writers are always aware that we have an audience, and not just when we’re writing. We all - no matter how we publish - create marketing plans. Often, when asked who our audience is, insist it’s ‘everyone’. But that’s not realistic or workable as a plan.

We debate the effectiveness of Facebook ads vs. newsletter offers, Amazon promotions vs. Goodreads giveaways. We have at least a pretty good idea of who our audience is: gender, age, geographic location, interests. But sometimes we can still be surprised.

I was in Boston earlier this month, speaking at The Muse and the Marketplace writing conference. It was a cold, dreary, rain-soaked weekend outside the Park Plaza Hotel, but energetic and stimulating inside.

Towards the end of the...

Public Speaking for Shy Authors - Part 2

Public Speaking for Shy Authors - Part 2
May 18, 2017 by Victoria Noe
I recently gave a presentation at The Muse and the Marketplace writing conference in Boston: "Public Speaking for Painfully Shy Authors". It’s a terrific weekend that I highly recommend to any author committed to improving their craft and career.

My presentation was in the first block after the opening keynote, which turned out to be great. Everyone was awake and energized and eager to learn. I greeted everyone as they arrived and asked if there was anything specific they were interested in learning. That gave me a chance to figure out ways to make sure the presentation met their needs.

The description in the program promised that there would be time for two or three people to be guinea pigs: stand in...

Release Day (Again) for Friend Grief and AIDS

Release Day (Again) for Friend Grief and AIDS
May 02, 2017 by Victoria Noe
I checked the calendar, so I know it’s true. It’s been four years since I published Friend Grief and AIDS: Thirty Years of Burying Our Friends. A lot has happened since then.

Some of the most recognizable people in the AIDS community, like Peter Staley and Jim Eigo, have become friends. I’ve attended AIDS conferences and meetings in New York, Chicago and Washington. I joined ACT UP/NY. I wrote freelance articles about the epidemic and won an award for one (2015 Christopher Hewitt Award for Creative Nonfiction). I make presentations about the epidemic and moral injury in long-term survivors. And I made a commitment to another, much longer book.

And though my life changed keeping the promise I made to my friend...

Self-Care for Writers: Put Yourself First

Self-Care for Writers: Put Yourself First
Apr 26, 2017 by Victoria Noe
joyfuljourneymom.com

When I started writing, I was determined to not be afraid to ask for help. I’m sure I was beyond annoying, asking about conferences to attend, software to use, metadata. But there was one thing I did not ask about: how to take care of myself.

On the surface, one would think it’s unnecessary to do anything different just because you’re a writer. Everyone should get a decent amount of sleep, eat healthy, stay active. Writing is solitary and easily isolating, so social contact is important, online or in person. I asked a number of writers how they do it.

Environmental: Most surprising to me was that self-care to some meant the act of writing itself. They created...

Public Speaking for Shy Authors

Public Speaking for Shy Authors
Apr 20, 2017 by Victoria Noe
thebigrocks.com

There are a lot of shy authors out there. They just want to sit at their computer and write. They might be willing to be active on social media, but the thought of being in public terrifies them. In fact, there's a name for it: glossophobia.

It’s not that they have anything to be ashamed of: their books are good, even great. They have fascinating stories to share about their writing process, their travels and their challenges. But give a reading...in public..in front of...people? No way. Unless you’re J.D. Salinger, this is not a good strategy.

Several years ago I was at a writing conference. I grabbed a seat near the stage because I was excited to finally...

The Grief That Takes You by Surprise

The Grief That Takes You by Surprise
Apr 12, 2017 by Victoria Noe
They seem to come in waves. You go for months, even years, when no one close to you dies. And then, bam: two or three or four in a matter of weeks. I remember a year when everyone I knew seemed to lose a parent, including me. But lately I’ve heard from several people who have lost a best friend.

“I’m angry,” insisted the minister in The Big Chill. “And I don’t know what to do with my anger.” These people feel a lot like that minister.

We expect those older than us – grandparents, parents, aunts and uncles – to die before us. But no one anticipates losing their friends. Some of those losses are normal: as we age, those around...

Five Things I Learned Interviewing People for My Books

Five Things I Learned Interviewing People for My Books
Apr 05, 2017 by Victoria Noe
greenhouse.io

When I started work on the Friend Grief series, I was only sure of one thing: they would be a mix of interviews and research. They would tell the stories of men and women who struggled to deal with the death of a friend; sometimes many friends.

The first time I ever interviewed anyone was in 1976. I was in New York doing research for my master’s degree project, the development of director-choreographers in American musical theatre. I sat in Bob Fosse’s living room near Carnegie Hall and discussed his career. I don’t remember much, though I’m sure my notes are in a box somewhere. But he was gracious with his time, and for that I’ll always...

Women's History Month - AIDSWatch

Women's History Month - AIDSWatch
Mar 28, 2017 by Victoria Noe
I planned to turn over my blog again this week to another straight woman in the AIDS community. That particular post will have to wait a bit. Instead I thought it would be better to report on my day (the first of two) in Washington, DC at AIDSWatch. It's no accident, in my mind, that the conference is presented by the Elizabeth Taylor AIDS Foundation, named for once of the fiercest advocates in the history of the epidemic.

I went last year, joining a few hundred people from around the country to advocate for funding and legislation important to people living with HIV and AIDS. It was my first time lobbying in the capitol since 1989, when I advocated for the...

Women's History Month - Susan Freed

Women's History Month - Susan Freed
Mar 22, 2017 by Victoria Noe
Photo from The Advocate

It’s natural for people to assume that my book (Fag Hags, Divas and Moms: The Legacy of Straight Women in the AIDS Community) is about women who work(ed) in the community: nurses, social workers, researchers, nonprofit executives.

But a large number do/did get involved as volunteers. Maybe they were drawn in by the illness and death of someone close to them. Or they just saw an opportunity to make a difference: to build on the diversity of the community and give back. Los Angeles resident Susan Freed, a Bank of America vice president, shared her experience June 22, 2016 in The Advocate.

 

I just completed my third AIDS/LifeCycle, a 545-mile, seven-day bike ride from San...

Women's History Month - Trudy James

Women's History Month - Trudy James
Mar 14, 2017 by Victoria Noe
AppleMark

I was referred to Trudy James by another Chicago author. It was one of those serendipitous moments. I don't know how else I would've found out about Trudy and the amazing work she has done in the AIDS community. But I guarantee you will learn more about her in my book, Fag Hags, Divas and Moms: The Legacy of Straight Women in the AIDS Community:

 

I was accepted into a one year Pastoral Care internship at the University of Arkansas Medical Center in Little Rock in 1989. A newly-trained chaplain, from Kansas, I knew nothing about AIDS, a fearful, stigmatized disease slowly creeping into the South. I learned fast from the eight AIDS patients I served that...

Women's History Month - Kathleen Pooler

Women's History Month - Kathleen Pooler
Mar 08, 2017 by Victoria Noe
Last year for Women’s History Month, I focused on women who will likely turn up in my book, Fag Hags, Divas and Moms: The Legacy of Straight Women in the AIDS Community. This year I’m doing the same thing.

First up is my friend, Kathleen Pooler. We met six years ago in an online book marketing class and became fast friends. She shares a common reaction from the early dark days of the epidemic: silence. And the price paid for that silence.

 

It was 1982. I was sitting at my desk contemplating the unfolding news about a mysterious virus that was creeping its way into our society and taking the lives of its victims. New details emerged every day leaving us in...

How Authors Are Rewarded

How Authors Are Rewarded
Mar 01, 2017 by Victoria Noe
Last Saturday I was part of “Path to Published”, a panel discussion put together by Chicago Writers Association. I think I can say that all of us on the panel had a great time talking about our various experiences: self-publishing, traditional and hybrid publishing.

One of the questions has really stuck with me since then. It was one that’s fairly common, one that everyone is asked eventually:

“What’s the most rewarding thing about being a writer?”

There are the obvious things: lots of people buying your books, great reviews, awards, crowds at your book signings. But that’s not what I talked about. My answer was in two parts.

With my Friend Grief series, I knew I had a hard sell. Grief is not a...

AIDS and Women's History Month

AIDS and Women's History Month
Feb 22, 2017 by Victoria Noe
ohio.edu

It’s no secret that I’m writing another book. What began as a nagging thought turned into an idea that has taken on a life of its own. Fag Hags, Divas and Moms: The Legacy of Straight Women in the AIDS Community overwhelms me occasionally – if you define ‘occasionally’ as ‘at least once a day’.

I’ve always felt these were stories that needed to be told: how straight women around the world have been an important part of the AIDS community since the beginning of the epidemic. But a random comment from a colleague a few weeks ago opened my eyes to something much bigger.

I was telling her about the book and she said “It’s like Hidden...

Delayed Grief on Facebook

Delayed Grief on Facebook
Feb 15, 2017 by Victoria Noe
how-to-geek

A friend found out recently that an old friend of hers died…a year ago. They’d lost touch, as friends often do. But when she saw a post noting the first anniversary of this man’s passing, she was not prepared.

Sometimes people cannot grieve a friend’s death immediately. Soldiers in combat can’t take the time to grieve in the midst of battle. They have to push their grief aside. Anytime grief is delayed, there’s a chance that it will pop up when least expected.

One of the men I interviewed for Friend Grief and Men: Defying Stereotypes was frustrated when the widow of his best friend did not hold a memorial service for almost nine months. He felt adrift,...

How Can You Write at a Time Like This?

How Can You Write at a Time Like This?
Feb 01, 2017 by Victoria Noe
A lot of writers I know have been struggling these past few months. Their fears about the future are on display, in their online posts and in their writing. Anxiety is rampant. So is insomnia. The news of the past two weeks has only heightened their concerns.

They are a diverse group: men and women, all the major religions, every race and generation. They live in the US and other countries. They write fiction and nonfiction, memoir and science fiction/fantasy, poetry and children’s literature.

And every one of them seems to be asking themselves the same question: How can you write at a time like this?

Writing almost seems superfluous, a luxury we can’t afford. We have to keep our eye on the...

Who Tells Your Story?

Who Tells Your Story?
Jan 24, 2017 by Victoria Noe
mnu.edu

“Who lives, who dies, who tells your story?” – Hamilton: An American Musical

The best movie I’ve seen in a long time is Hidden Figures, the story of the African-American female mathematicians who helped NASA put men in space. I’m old enough to remember the Mercury astronauts and when a space launch was reason to gather your family around the TV. Everyone we ever saw in the NASA control rooms was a white man. So when the movie – and book by Margot Lee Shetterly – were released, the most common reaction was “I never knew that.” The second most common reaction was “Why haven’t we heard this story before?”

Hidden Figures is not the first book or...

Why Editing is Like Physical Therapy

Why Editing is Like Physical Therapy
Jan 18, 2017 by Victoria Noe
My hand, 3 days after my accident

The end of October I fell and broke my hand. It was the first time I’ve ever broken a bone and I made up for lost time by breaking four of them. A few hours later, I was in surgery having five pins inserted (being awake for it wasn’t so bad, but I could’ve done without listening to the drill). The pins stayed in for almost five weeks. Physical therapy (more accurately, occupational therapy) began less than two weeks after the accident.

It’s a long road: at least another month of twice/weekly torture sessions and two dozen daily exercises. Full recovery will take a year, so I have a ways to...