A global pandemic certainly isn’t funny, but in author Mindy Littman Holland’s newest book, Days Of Wine And Covid, she takes a wonderful, amusing look at how the crisis affected her on a daily basis. Filled with wit, escapades, and thoughts on the whole thing, Mindy reminds us that it’s still better to laugh at life than cry and bemoan the fates.
Born in New York, Mindy attended Brandeis University, majoring in psychology and fine arts, following which she moved on to study print and broadcast journalism, and eventually even opening her own marketing communications and public relations company. She now lives with her husband, high and dry in Santa Fe, NM, where she focuses the majority of her attention on her writing, art, and fabulous photography of the incredible skies and landscapes surrounding her.
Interviewed by Debbie A. McClure
Q What made you decide to write a book about your experiences during the Covid-19 pandemic?
A: I had no idea that I was going to write a book about the Covid-19 pandemic. As a lifelong journalist and more-recent blogger, I began to write stories about my experience with coronavirus as soon as my life became impacted by it. All of a sudden, it was mid-February 2020, and I found myself sitting in a plane with a bunch of coughing people amid news that a pandemic was making its way to the United States at record speed. The events of that day, and every day since, became fodder for stories about the virus that was taking the world by storm. I felt compelled to record my experiences, and I posted a few stories on social media. People began to ask, “When is this going to become a book?” And I told them, “Soon. Very soon.”
Q You started out working in the corporate world, but have transitioned into the arts in a big way. Why?
A: I come from a very creative family; lots of artists, photographers, writers, dancers, musicians, opera singers, actors – the works. For the most part, we were all encouraged to sublimate our artsy side and pursue more practical careers. The actor became a lawyer; the opera singer became an insurance salesman; the writer formed a marketing communications business for high-tech corporations, and so on. I began writing and illustrating my own books by the time I knew how to hold a pencil, so I started out in the arts. I had a very successful career in the corporate world, and that afforded me the amazing luxury of being able to return to my artistic roots. Now, I do a little of one, and a lot of the other.
Q What is it about the arts, including writing, that draws you in and holds you?
A: I have always felt a strong drive to express myself creatively. I was reading and writing at a very early age. Drawing pictures happened when I was prelingual. My head always created stories. I could be sitting in a subway train and get fixated on the face of the person sitting across from me. I would build an entire life for that person, just from the way they tilted their chin. So, what draws me in and holds me are the stories I create, sometimes out of the thin air and sometimes out of a reality that’s so intense, I can’t help but broadcast it. I feel compelled to tell stories, visually and orally.
Q In everything you write, you definitely lean toward using humor and a “let’s sit and chat with a glass of wine” approach. What is it you hope to achieve in your writing style?
A: I am a relationship person; always have been. And I was born with a funny bone. Connecting with other people is very important to me. Being humorous and making myself accessible makes connection lighter and deeper at the same time. I am fascinated with what makes individuals tick, and I listen very closely to what they have to say. Their stories are rich, and I love what they share. So, what I hope to achieve with my writing style is a sense of connection.
Q What have you learned about yourself in your pursuit of the arts that has surprised you the most?
A: What I have learned about myself is that I don’t discourage easily, and that does surprise me because trying to make a mark in the arts can be very daunting. There are a lot of very talented people out there, and the playing field is extremely competitive. But what is no surprise is that I write for my own joy, and little else.
Q What advice would you give to new writers?
A: I would tell them to write about what they love, and be meticulous in their story-telling, regardless of whether it’s fiction or nonfiction. I would tell them to do their homework, to research, and to learn how to entertain. I would also urge them to understand the demographic of the people they are trying to reach. Some generations prefer to listen to a book rather than to read a book. It’s good to know something like that in advance.
Q When writing, do you set a regular schedule, or write only when the mood moves you?
A: I write when I feel compelled to write, and I feel compelled every day.
Q What lessons have you learned about the publishing industry and its many challenges?
A: I’ve learned that the publishing world isn’t what it used to be. Unless you’re a household name—or know someone who is—most traditional publishers won’t work with you unless you have a literary agent. And most literary agents won’t work with you unless you’ve successfully published already. It’s a bit of a Catch 22. I have published with traditional publishers and I have published on my own. In both cases, I have had to do my own marketing. I’ve learned that there’s no stigma to self-publishing, as long as you have the ability and drive to do a professional job and promote your work.
Q What might surprise people to know about you?
A: After a long career in marketing, people might be surprised to know that I don’t enjoy marketing myself. And sales gives me the willies, altogether. Basically, I don’t like asking people for money. On the other hand, I believe my work is well worth reading.
Q How much did your past experience in marketing and public relations help you in your current work?
A: When I majored in psychology and studio art in college, one of my professors wanted me to be an English major because he liked my writing. I said, “I don’t want to teach English. If you already like my writing, what do I need a degree in English for?” When I did graduate work in journalism and broadcasting, it led to me becoming a corporate writer and a radio news broadcaster. That made more practical sense to me. I ended up founding a company that specialized in marketing and public relations – basically, oral and written communications. The bottom line is it’s all about communications; being able to tell a story in a way that entertains and/or provokes feelings or actions in others, and being able to sell that story to the masses. So, yes, I would say that my experience in marketing and public relations did help me in my current work.
Q What marketing and public relations advice would you give to new writers and artists?
A: I would tell new writers to use all social media platforms that are available to them to promote their work. I would recommend that they create a compelling website to send people to for more information. If there weren’t a pandemic going on, I would advise them to arrange as many reading engagements as possible, not only in their home market, but all over the place. I would have them do a focused emailing to potentially-interested parties. They should encourage people to review their book, understanding that strangers may not be as kind as their friends. If they have the opportunity to participate in interviews, they should answer questions directly and completely, without going off into the weeds. And they should try to get as much press as possible.
Q What’s next for you, Mindy?
A: I’m already hard at work on my next book. I don’t know yet if it’s going to be nonfiction or fiction because sometimes it starts out as one and ends up as the other. Considering what’s going on in the world, it could end up being the grimmest book on Earth. Or the funniest. After all, humor is at the heart of all my books.We’ll see. I may not be able to help myself.
Bio: Mindy Littman Holland is a writer, artist and photographer living in Santa Fe, New Mexico. She is the author of Wait Until You’re Fifty: A Woman’s Journey Into Midlife; The Rebirth of Gershon Polokov; All My Funny Ones: A Collection of Short Stories; and Days of Wine and COVID: Fifty-Seven Stories of Pandemic Proportions.
Amazon Links (for Days of Wine and COVID)
https://www.amazon.com/s?k=Mindy+Littman+Holland&ref=nb_sb_noss_2 (General Amazon Page)
https://www.barnesandnoble.com/s/Mindy+Littman+Holland?_requestid=348307 (General Barnes and Noble Page)