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Member Spotlights

Member Spotlight: Victoria Noe

Why is writing important to you and why do you think it’s an important medium for the world? On a personal level, writing is therapeutic for me. I has been since I was probably 12 years old. I don’t journal, but I write things that reflect what I’m experiencing at the time. Those are not for publication. As far as my public writing, my purpose has always been to shine a light on subjects that had been hidden: grieving the death of a friend, the contributions of women during the almost 40 years of the AIDS epidemic. When a reader says, “I’ve learned so much” or “You’re writing about me!”, that’s when I feel that I’ve accomplished something. I’ve made a connection, often with someone who felt forgotten. I was also in theatre for years, and Shakespeare is my favorite playwright. So I learned to really appreciate writing in high school, through his plays. As far as the world, the discussions about the whiteness of the publishing world, along with ongoing movements like #BlackLivesMatter, are opportunities for discovery. I’m certainly reading more from BIPOC writers than I did a year ago: not just anti-racism books, but gorgeous books like N.K Jemisin’s The City We Became. It’s not a genre I normally read, but I wanted to know what all buzz was about. I’m glad I did. I also believe libraries are the real foundation of our democracy. That’s where the world can open up for everyone.

What are your tried and tested remedies to cure writer’s block? My writing career began after I had a concussion in 2009. Before that I was the kind of person who kept going, even if I was running on fumes. My wonderful neurologist taught me, “go to it, not through it”. That means when you hit the wall, stop. I don’t have writer’s block very often, but when it happens, I just stop trying to write. I go for a walk, take myself out to lunch, and if I’m desperate, clean the house. If I’m in New York, I spend a few hours at the Cloisters. Doing something physical always manages to unblock me.

What is your favorite time to write? Afternoon. Mornings are usually spent with marketing tasks. Once I can cross off a few things on my to-do list, I feel focused for writing. If I’m in New York (where I typically do a lot of research) I work at a library: sometimes Lincoln Center, sometimes 5th Avenue, sometimes a neighborhood branch. I don’t need to be in a room alone to write. Lately, I’ve revised my daily work routine, so I’m writing more in the evening. I haven’t done that for a couple years, so we’ll see if that sticks.

What’s the best piece of writing advice you’ve ever received and would like to impart to other writers? The best and the hardest: don’t self-edit while you write. Just let it pour out: the good, the bad, the ugly. Much of it will never see the light of day, and that’s fine. I feel like the urge to self-edit is an urge to contain emotions, and a desire to be perfect on the first try. So contain that urge. Take your finger off the backspace key. Accept the fact that it will never be perfect, but it will improve. There’s plenty of time to edit later.

What excites you most about being a writer in today’s age? Writing is my fourth career, so I’m used to reinventing myself. At the beginning of the pandemic, I was pretty devastated. All my events for the year were canceled. A writing project I’d hoped to begin in the summer was now impossible due to travel restrictions. Then I realized I could reboot my career–in fact, I had no choice. And frankly, that excited me. I’ve felt more creative than I have in a long time, and oddly enough, more engaged. I’ve learned so much and broadened my writing community. The blank calendar gave me the chance to do some things I’d put off, and they’re all improving my writing and my writing business. Many if not most of the opportunities would not have happened if we weren’t in the midst of this pandemic. So, I’m grateful. Believe me, I did not expect to feel this way six months ago!

Victoria Noe’s Fag Hags, Divas, and Moms: The Legacy of Straight Women in the AIDS Community is out now with King Company Publishing.