Victoria Noe

Award-winning Author, Speaker, Activist

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Reflection on COVID-19 - Guest Post by Trudy James

Reflection on COVID-19 - Guest Post by Trudy James
May 29, 2020 by Victoria Noe
Trudy James

If you've read my book Fag Hags, Divas and Moms: The Legacy of Straight Women in the AIDS Community, you were probably surprised by the story of Trudy James, a hospital chaplain in Arkansas in the late 1980s. I know her story surprised me, too! She is now a leader in the field of death and dying, as well as grief and loss awareness. In the first of two guest blogs, Trudy shares an email she sent out on March 30, not long after the lock downs began:

I was enjoying a long-anticipated vacation in Italy with my friend, Jane. We were visiting my son and daughter-in-law who were planning to live in Umbria (mid-Italy, not...

Passing on the Lessons of the AIDS Epidemic

Passing on the Lessons of the AIDS Epidemic
Apr 17, 2020 by Victoria Noe
Elizabeth Taylor, testifying before Congress

When I was writing Fag Hags, Divas and Moms: The Legacy of Straight Women in the AIDS Community, I sometimes heard the voices of the women whose stories I was sharing. It was more of a feeling that they were in the room, reading over my shoulder. I’d had something very specific in mind when I began, but that idea changed, in large part because these women guided me. They made it a much better book.

Many of the women are no longer alive, so they don’t have to face another worldwide pandemic. But I realized that they and the ones still with us have a lot to say. 

Dr. Molly Cooke, on facing...

Still Connected, Even if Not Physically

Still Connected, Even if Not Physically
Mar 19, 2020 by Victoria Noe
March 13, 2020, 7pm, 5th Ave & 86th St., NYC

Like most people, my life has turned upside down this month.

Last week I was in New York, for what would turn out to be a five-day visit instead of a three-week trip to four cities. I’d been there less than 48 hours when the emails started popping up: cancellations and rescheduling. The one event that wasn’t cancelled was drastically downsized. My hotel was emptying quickly, crowds were disappearing. Everyone was scared. What would have been a busy and lucrative month was now a financial disaster. Fear of the unknown - and so much is unknown about COVID-19 - overwhelmed every other consideration.

Still, I remained oddly calm. All...

Why Women's History Month is Like A Treasure Hunt

Why Women's History Month is Like A Treasure Hunt
Mar 02, 2020 by Victoria Noe
I have a friend who posts the same thing on Facebook every morning: “Today is National X Day. Please celebrate responsibly.” He shares commemorations that are sometimes important, often obscure, frequently funny. I look forward to them because they start my day with a smile and a new bit of - sometimes useless - knowledge.

Women’s History Month is like that, too. Just like February’s Black History Month, every day in March brings stories that are new to many and endlessly fascinating. Uncovering those jewels is critical to our understanding of the world. 

This year marks the centennial of the 19th amendment, which finally gave women the right to vote. One hundred years ago, my grandparents were teenagers and young adults. It...

The Post-Book Launch Glow

The Post-Book Launch Glow
Apr 20, 2019 by Victoria Noe
I’ve had two book launch events in the last two weeks: one in Chicago, one in New York City, both at indie bookstores. Both events had delicious cakes that looked like the book cover.

This book - Fag Hags, Divas and Moms: The Legacy of Straight Women in the AIDS Community - is very different than the Friend Grief series I wrote. It’s longer and more complicated, being published almost five years to the day after I first got the idea for it. My production team - editor, cover designer, interior designer - was different. I hired a publicist, for the first time ever. Like I said, very different.

But the biggest difference is that so many people were invested in this...

A Special Women's History Month

A Special Women's History Month
Mar 28, 2019 by Victoria Noe
It’s been almost five years since the idea for my next book popped into my head.

On April 1, 2014, I was at the New York Public Library for a panel discussion: “The Women of ACT UP/NY! Fight Back! Fight AIDS!” A group of accomplished women - straight and lesbians - talked about the things they’d accomplished that changed the AIDS epidemic. The most significant one was arguably a four year battle to change the definition of AIDS to include women. Until 1992, the government and insurance companies defined AIDS by how it presented in men.

I knew most of the stories they told, though many in the audience, including my 19 year old daughter, did not. I remember thinking,...

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...

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....

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...

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...

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...

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...

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...

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...

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...

New Year, New Book, New Day

New Year, New Book, New Day
Jan 11, 2017 by Victoria Noe
I’m a little weird about calendars. I’ll buy a planner in the fall, so I can start writing down commitments in the next year. But I refuse to put up a new wall calendar until January 1. This year I had a lot of events to add. Having my writing career – and other things – come to a full stop after breaking my hand, I’m finally beginning to play catch-up. I’m not fully healed yet, but the calendar is filling up.

Travel begins the end of March. I start where I finished so abruptly last October:  New York, to conduct the interviews I had to cancel after my accident. Then it’s down to Washington, DC for AIDSWatch, two days of...

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 Kindness of Strangers

The Kindness of Strangers
Aug 23, 2016 by Victoria Noe
picturequotes.com

Writing is as solitary a profession as anyone can imagine: just you and your pen/paper/computer/typewriter. But no one, no matter how good they are, truly does it alone.

I knew when I started writing that I would have to ask for help. Normally, I like figuring things out on my own, but this was different. The publishing world was changing so fast that it was mind-numbing. It still is. So I risked looking stupid – though I was – and asked questions. A lot of questions. Sometimes I was embarrassed to ask but I did anyway (thank God for email so I didn’t have to look them in the eye).

I am constantly amazed by the willingness of...

"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...