Victoria Noe

Award-winning Author, Speaker, Activist

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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...

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...

Rebooting Your Writing

Rebooting Your Writing
May 16, 2018 by Victoria Noe
I stepped back from most of my writing a few days before Christmas. That’s when my mother broke her hip and had surgery. In the weeks that followed, as she struggled through rehab, I, too struggled to write. I kept up my blog and my email newsletters (with varying degrees of success). But by the time she died March 16, I wasn’t writing at all. It’s been two months now, months where my only writing was limited to thank you notes,  filling out legal and financial forms and paying bills.

Because I’d been suffering from a recurrence of symptoms related to post-concussive syndrome, I checked in with my neurologist the week after my mother’s funeral. He’s a big fan of...

The Disadvantage of Writing About Grief

The Disadvantage of Writing About Grief
May 09, 2018 by Victoria Noe
                  thegiftofwriting.com

“Well, you write about grief, so this is…”

The woman at my mother’s wake didn’t finish her sentence. It just kind of faded with her shrug. She didn’t quite know how to get out of the hole she’d dug for herself. But I’m pretty sure the ending she was looking for was “easier for you”. I have to admit I didn’t offer her any help.

Many people who write about grief are trained, certified professionals. They’re psychologists, therapists, chaplains, counselors. For some of them, grief was what inspired their careers. The rest of us are not professionally trained. But we all have one thing in common: we experience grief....

Not Everyone Knows What You Know

Not Everyone Knows What You Know
Mar 15, 2018 by Victoria Noe
lifesuccess.com

We all know things: some trivial, some important. We learned them in school, in the home, on the streets, at work. We know so many things, in fact, we may not realize that there are people out there who do not share our depth of knowledge.

In conversations with dozens of doctors and nurses these past few weeks, I’ve noticed that many, if not most, are good at explaining things. They tell me about a procedure or options in medical jargon. I know a fair amount, but not everything, so I ask them to explain. Most of them are not annoyed.

A few, though, are insulted. They don’t feel the need to explain themselves; after all, they’re the...

I Am Not A Sandwich

I Am Not A Sandwich
Mar 07, 2018 by Victoria Noe
You see them at Nordstrom or neighborhood diners or in cafeterias: middle-aged women (occasionally men) and an older parent. The child is in charge without letting the parent know they’re in charge. They explain the menu to them, ask questions of the wait staff, smiling though the tension that’s alway there. Sometimes they help their parent walk, or cut their food. Their conversations are superficial: the food, the temperature in the room, the noise, maybe family news.

Occasionally their cell phone rings. They look down, annoyed, debating if they should answer, but when they do, it’s almost always work-related. You can see their bodies tense up more when they speak, juggling some new complication in their already jammed lives.

I’m one of...

"You Could Write a Book About This"

"You Could Write a Book About This"
Feb 28, 2018 by Victoria Noe
My mother made that suggestion on Sunday, as I sat on the bed in her hospital room. A long-awaited doctor visit on Friday morning took an unexpected turn when a severe infection was discovered. We were sent to the ER across the street and she was admitted to the hospital for treatment.

Mom has read all my books. “You were always the smartest one in the family,” she insisted, though I did not agree. My parents always believed I could do anything, even when I didn’t believe it myself. She even knows some of the people in my books, including my friend, Delle Chatman, who inspired me to write in the first place.

It’s been almost 13 years since my father died...

What's Your Word of the Year?

What's Your Word of the Year?
Jan 17, 2018 by Victoria Noe
elizabethrider.com

A lot of friends of mine have decided to pick a word as their theme, their mantra for 2018. Some have chosen interesting words like ‘fearless’ or ‘joy’. Mary Schmich, in the Chicago Tribune, shared some of her readers’ choices. For a while, the whole thing struck me as silly.

I don’t make New Year’s resolutions, though I am fond of to-do lists. I made a list of goals for my writing this year. I will probably fall short, but that’s okay. I’ll be happy if I only meet half of them because that will mean that I’m working smarter than I did last year.

Having said that, the idea of picking one word for my mantra started...

A New Year! A New Me?

A New Year! A New Me?
Jan 04, 2018 by Victoria Noe
bookcovercafe.com

Every January 1st, people make New Year’s resolutions. They commit to making changes: positive changes. Some want to lose weight, exercise more, travel. Others hope to change careers or go back to school. And though I didn’t really make resolutions about my personal life (or rather, none I’m willing to share) I do have to make one big one in my writing life.

For years, the word many authors feared was ‘platform’. We were told we had to have one, had to build one, had to maintain it constantly - even if we weren’t quite sure what it was. Now I rarely hear that kind of advice given with the urgency I heard in 2011.

Now the...

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....

Books for the Special People on Your Holiday List: Part 1

Books for the Special People on Your Holiday List: Part 1
Dec 07, 2017 by Victoria Noe
I was inspired by Sandra Beckwith’s post on the Build Book Buzz blog, suggesting holiday gifts for writers. It got me thinking about books I've loved and love to give to friends. So in that spirit, here are a few I’d like to recommend. In the interest of full disclosure, most are by writers I know. All are by writers I admire.

For the Nasty Woman in your life - Nasty Women: Feminism, Resistance and Revolution in Trump’s America by Samhita Mukhopadhyay and Kate Harding

 

 

   

For the daughter who lives and loves basketball - Home Sweet Hardwood: A Title IX Trailblazer Breaks Through Barriers for Basketball by Pat McKinzie

 

 

 

 

 

 

For the friend looking for the courage to leave an abusive relationship - Ever...

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...

"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...

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....

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 -...

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...

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...