It’s A Book Thing Presents: An Interview with Judy Colbert, author of Maryland and Delaware Off the Beaten Path, 10th edition
Author’s Bio: Judy Colbert is an award-winning author and photographer who’s a native of Washington, DC. Her three dozen books and articles include guides to Washington, DC, Baltimore, Maryland, Virginia, and Delaware. She also writes about the business of travel, cruises, and the people who live in the midatlantic region. Other book topics have included Super Bowl Trivia, Chesapeake Bay crab cookbook, and temper tantrums (sold seven copies). The thing she loves the most is when someone says, “I’ve lived here all my life (so far) and didn’t know that. Her latest book, Maryland and Delaware Off the Beaten Path, 10thedition, dropped July 1, 2022.
She also can’t live without sunshine, a shower, and a song in her heart or head (no, she can’t sing; she can barely hum).
Deliah Lawrence:What inspired you to write your book?
Judy Colbert:When I was 12, I was at my library, in Silver Spring, MD, (recently named the Brigadier General Charles E. McGee library), I saw a book by Marvin Mudrick (1921-1986). As Mudrick is my maiden name, I was impressed. I don’t remember which book it was, but I thought, “One day my name will be on the spine of a book.” I gather we were distantly related, but he lived in Santa Barbara and we never met.
DL: How do you handle writer’s block?
JC: The first step is to take a nap. Then, I just start writing. I pretty much follow the rule that the first three paragraphs are trash, regardless of whether I’m chugging along or thinking about watching grass grow. This is not the time to worry about spelling, grammar, or anything else except what do I want to tell people. Mostly, I write articles, typically 750-1000 words, so they’re easy chunks, except each word has to say something. Travel guidebooks (my primary area) also consist of tiny chunks. As I write nonfiction, I’m almost always on deadline, so I have an editor and a paycheck waiting for me. It’s amazing how much of a prod each is.
DL: What is your writing process?
JC: I deal with a lot of research. What’s my personal experience at a place? What does it smell like? What sounds are there? What’s the dominant color? Are things Moving? I have to paint verbal pictures. I also have to have lots of factual details: name, address, phone, URL, operating hours, admission fees. Inevitably, at least a quarter of any book that I’m updating has to be updated. If someone spots one mistake (look for the garden on the right when it’s on the left), they’ll figure everything else might be wrong. It’s distracting. Alas, this spoils me for fiction where so much is wrong these days. Someone rides a motorcycle under the Potomac River where there are no vehicular tunnels available. Or, someone takes a right turn out of the Watergate complex and they’re on the Beltway. Argh.
DL: What do you think makes a good story?
JC: Something that makes me think; something that makes someone read what I’ve written and say, “I’ve lived here all my life (so far) and never knew that.” There’s no point in rehashing an oft-told tale.
DL: What were some of the challenges when writing this book?
JC: Keeping my changes to about ¼ of the text, because so many attractions (or restaurants, etc.) closed (lots of that with Covid) since my last update and replacing them with things that are interesting to see and do for a wide range of people and that haven’t been written about. What have I discovered that’s just not that well-known but should be?
DL: Is there any particular author or book that influenced you in any way either growing up or as an adult?
JC: I LOVE police procedurals. I also love capers. No one gets physically hurt. It’s a mind game. I have ideas for my own fiction books, but I’ve never made it past the first chapter. This year’s goal is to read some of the reference books sitting bedside.
DL: What tips would you give to aspiring writers?
JC: Write. If you’re writing for money, you’re probably in the wrong business. Most writers I know can’t not write. When you’re writing the first time, ignore the structure, grammar, spelling, and other things that distract you. Just write. Then, you can fix it. The fixing is important, but not while you’re writing. Correct everything before you send your manuscript to a friend or an editor. If you send a sloppy manuscript, you’re insulting the reader by saying the reader isn’t worth the time you would need to correct it.
DL: What do you like to do when you are not writing?
JC: Keep in touch with friends. I have the most amazing neighbors and friends (online and IRL) who make it possible for this old lady to wake up every morning just so happy to be alive. Okay, I have a few bad moments, periodically, but then I remember something nice a neighbor did yesterday or last month. I try to reciprocate (I crochet) and thank them as best as I can, knowing they expect nothing.
DL: Would you like to share an excerpt from Maryland and Delaware Off the Beaten Path?
JC: Sure, here you go:
Welcome to Maryland and Delaware Off the Path, tenth edition, two states where you’ll find the best food, the friendliest people, the most incredible history, amazingly unusual attractions, wonderful scenery and natural resources, and enough interesting ways to spend a few hours off the interstate to keep you busy for years.
Maryland is often called America in Miniature because the state goes from the seashore (the Atlantic Ocean and the Chesapeake Bay) on the east to the mountains (the Appalachians) on the west. Not everything in Maryland, however, is miniature. The National Aquarium in Baltimore is one of the world’s largest. The collection at Baltimore’s Walter’s Art Museum is world renowned. Maryland also has one of the nation’s largest hydroelectric generating stations at Conowingo Dam (Cecil County), the largest colony of African black-footed penguins in Northern American (Maryland Zoo), one of the largest and finest public libraries in the United States at the Enoch Pratt Free Library (Baltimore City), and the largest wooden dome in the country built without nails (Annapolis State House). Well, the list continues, but you get the idea.
Delaware, the country’s second-smallest state offers its own large treasures and unique attractions.
Thank you for spending your time with me and wonderful Maryland and Delaware.
DL: Where can readers learn more about you and purchase your book(s)?
JC: Readers can find out more about me and my work here:
- Website: www.JudyColbert.com
- Amazon Author Page: Amazon.com : judy colbert
- Facebook: Judy Mudrick Colbert | Facebook
- Twitter: (1) Judy Colbert (@JoodyC) / Twitter
- LinkedIn: Judy Colbert – Freelance – T | LinkedIn
DL: Thanks so much for being here with us today. I know my readers will enjoy getting to know you and your work.
JC:Thanks for the opportunity!