Victoria Noe

Award-winning Author, Speaker, Activist

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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...

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...

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...

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...

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...

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 -...

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...

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...

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...

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...

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...

A Bump in the Road

A Bump in the Road
Nov 02, 2016 by Victoria Noe
Ugly, isn't it?

This week's blog post is short but not so sweet.

The first week of my trip to New York was amazing. I attended a panel discussion that included Kelsey Louie, Executive Director of GMHC (Gay Men's Health Crisis) and one of its founders, Larry Kramer. I heard another panel speak on the narrativization of AIDS in the dance community.

I interviewed ten amazing women who you'll meet in Fag Hags, Divas and Moms: The Legacy of Straight Women in the AIDS Community. 

I launched my Indiegogo campaign to support the book. I was on a roll.

And then I wasn't.

On Saturday I tripped and fell, breaking two fingers. Had surgery to insert 5 pins that will be removed in a month. I'm...

The Next Stage for My Next Book

The Next Stage for My Next Book
Oct 26, 2016 by Victoria Noe
I'll be there this week interviewing women for the book.

I’m back…in New York, that is. The last couple trips here I was doing research for my next book, Fag Hags, Divas and Moms: The Legacy of Straight Women in the AIDS Community. I’m on a first-name basis with the research librarians at the New York Public Library (5th Avenue and Lincoln Center). They’ve been a great help to me: “That tape is out for digitization, but I took the liberty of pulling the transcript for you.”

This trip marks the next stage for the book. I’m not done with the research; not by a long shot. But between previous visits here, research online and at the U...

"Are You Straight?" - Researching My Next Book

"Are You Straight?" - Researching My Next Book
Aug 10, 2016 by Victoria Noe
NYPL Library for the Performing Arts

All of the Friend Grief books required research. I knew I couldn’t rely only on personal interviews because there were some celebrities I wanted to include, as well as people I could not travel to meet. Truth be told, I like doing research. I feel a sense of accomplishment when I find what I’m looking for. I get really jazzed when I uncover a gem.

 

But this next book…well, the research is on a whole different level.

Fag Hags, Divas and Moms: The Legacy of Straight Women in the AIDS Community looks at the contributions of these women through the 35 years of the epidemic. I made a few decisions early on that...