Appalachian Writers

Appalachian Writers


Jim Casada often refers to himself as a “True Son of the Smokies” after getting to know him over the last year I believe it’s an apt description. Jim was born and raised a hop skip and a jump from here-in Bryson City, NC. I recently interviewed Jim about his career as a writer.

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How long have you been writing? 

Tipper, in one sense at least I’ve been writing since high school. I had a great teacher in the 9th grade who made a comment on a paper of mine (it was on squirrel hunting) to the effect of “This is the type of material, in much more sophisticated form, that the outdoor magazines buy. I never forgot that.

Have you always wanted to be a writer? 

Pretty much, I guess. Certainly that seed sown in the 9th grade is suggestive, and I fooled around with poetry in undergraduate school and beyond. I’ve written consistently for almost exactly forty years. That included several scholarly books and perhaps a hundred scholarly articles during my “professing” days, but well before I took early retirement from the university where I taught, I was writing on the subject areas covered below. 

What genre do you typically write? 

When it comes to subject matter, I’m something of a generalist. Most of my magazine pieces fall into one of the following categories—hunting, fishing, non-consumptive outdoor activities such as hiking and camping, conservation, cooking game and fish (as well as foods from nature), sporting history, the literature of the outdoors, and pretty much all aspects of Appalachian culture. I’ve never done anything in the way of fiction, although I’ll confess to being a fair hand at embellishing when given a chance. I have written a few humor pieces and have won a storytelling contest or two relying on humorous (but true) tales. Mainly though, I stick to factual narrative, and much of my work carries overtones of history.

I know you’ve used the traditional method of publishing and went the self-publishing route as well. Can you briefly describe the benefits you see with each? 

Up until the appearance of Fly Fishing in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park:  An Insider’s Guide to a Pursuit of Passion, all of my books (and I’ve written, edited, or been a major contributor to upwards of fifty books), were published by commercial or university presses. That book was especially meaningful to me, and frankly, I didn’t want anyone “messing” with it other than from the standpoint of careful proofreading. Also, it was too long, at 448 pages, and too costly (lots of graphs and color photos along with top-quality paper) for most commercial operations. Also, I was pretty sure I could do a sound job of marketing it. Since I’ve got another self-published book with a layout-and-design guy right now, obviously I was pleased. As for the pros and cons—self-publishing is scary because it is all on your shoulders—finding an editor and someone to do the layout and design, the marketing, the storage, the shipping, and most of all the upfront costs. On the flip side of the equation though, all the money is yours.

Commercial presses just pay royalties, usually somewhere between 10 and 17 percent of what they get for each copy they sell (not the list price but what is actually paid to them), but they do take care of all the details. 

The subject matter of your writing is often related to your years spent in Bryson City as a boy-does that make you feel as though you’ve come full circle? 

You are certainly accurate in suggesting that my Appalachian boyhood has influenced my writing. Both my paternal grandfather and my father were great storytellers, and they gave me solid grounding in that regard. Also, I’d like to think that my devotion to all things “mountain,” along with a lifelong ability to be a pretty keen observer of others, helped me a great deal. You are probably right that I’ve come full circle, although in a lot of sense I don’t feel like I ever left my roots and my grounding. What did happen, and I guess that is the circle, is plenty of formal education, training in how to research, a lot of years in the classroom, and plenty of exposure to other writers active in the fields of my specialization. I have been, at one time or another, president of the Outdoor Writers Association of America, the Southeastern Outdoor Press Association, and the S. C. Outdoor Press Association. I was a founding board member of the Professional Outdoor Media of America. For all of that though, I remain at heart a son of the Smokies and a great deal of my work harkens back to what I now realize was an idyllic boyhood.

Since you first started writing-what effect do you think the Internet has had on writing-especially on newsprint? 

The impact has been huge, and for freelancers like me, devastating. At one point not too terribly long ago I was writing weekly columns for five newspapers. Today I do one weekly column and a second one every other week. That’s it, and the other newspapers no longer cover the outdoors in any consistent fashion at all. I do some work for the Internet, but at this point in time I don’t think many folks have really figured out how to earn the same kind of money from web sites (whether personal or otherwise) that newspapers and magazines traditionally provided. My magazine output is down as well, and not by choice. Where for many years I published around 125-150 articles a year, I probably get half that number of assignments these days. Fortunately for me, there are still books, and increasingly that’s the focus of my writing efforts.

Where can folks find out more about your writing? 

The best place to start is my web site, www.jimcasadaoutdoors.com. There they can find information on my current activities, more details on my career as a writer, my schedule of appearances, and the like. Also, I do a free monthly e-newsletter which usually includes some reminiscences, seasonal thoughts on whatever captures my fancy (often nostalgic looks back to youth), some recipes from the cookbooks my wife and I have written, and the bargain of the month (usually a special price on one or more of my books).

Is there anything else you want my readers to know about your writing? 

If I could emphasize anything about the body of my work and the general thrust of my writing efforts, it would be the profound impact that closeness to the good earth in general, and the world of the Smokies in particular, has exerted on me. I love Appalachian ways with an abiding passion, a corner of my soul belongs to the mountains, and I hope that in some small way my devotion to the place of my roots shows through. Beyond that, I guess I should mention that I’ve won a bunch of regional and national awards over the years.

Can you sum up what Appalachia means to you?

I guess I touched on this above, but my roots run deep in the soil of Appalachia, I’m immensely proud (and protective) of my mountain heritage, the region is my anchor, and I personally think some of my finest work has an Appalachian setting. I’m deeply imbued in the history and folkways of Appalachia, have read and studied the region all my life (although it wasn’t my field of specialization as a historian), and my personal library of books on the region probably runs close to 2,000 items.

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I hope you enjoyed my interview with Jim Casada-check out his website-and read some of his writing-I know you’ll be glad you did. Jim’s book: Fly Fishing in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park:  An Insider’s Guide to a Pursuit of Passion would make a perfect Father’s Day gift or a great gift for anyone who is interested in fly fishing or in the park. The book has tons of information about fly fishing in the Smoky Mountain National Park-but it also has quite a bit on the history of the area and some dandy photos are included as well.

Tipper

 

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11 Comments

  • Reply
    Larry Proffitt
    April 22, 2011 at 9:00 am

    Tipper , what a great interview of Jim Casada . A fine picture of Jim with fresh turkey meat for the skillet . Jim is a good friend and for sure the real deal when it comes to turkey hunting and catching trout. A true brother of the mountains and grand master of turkey hunting ,not even to mention his great writing skills and putting a fresh mess of trout in the skillet at will. Larry Proffitt

  • Reply
    Janet
    April 20, 2011 at 11:34 am

    Good interview, Tipper. He sure has been published a lot.

  • Reply
    Suzi Phillips
    April 19, 2011 at 10:54 pm

    Great interview! The mountains certainly do call their own-and once they have you, they own a part of your soul. They surely own a big part of mine, I honestly don’t think I could live anywhere else. It’s not always an easy life, but anything worth having is usually hard earned. I always feel just very, very blessed to be here.

  • Reply
    Vicki Lane
    April 19, 2011 at 9:02 pm

    Great interview! I’ve very much enjoyed Jim’s comments here — nice to know more about the man behind the words.

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    April 19, 2011 at 3:32 pm

    Good interview Tipper. It is nice to know more about Jim after reading his comments on the Blind Pig.
    It is heart warming to hear Jim talk of his love for these mountains. These mountains call to her own….I believe that with all my being and I have seen it happen many times. Then there are some folks that she rejects, they come and find our mountains smothering and the winters barren and they go away, never to return. I have seen that happen too.
    Like Mike, my heart is here!

  • Reply
    B. Ruth
    April 19, 2011 at 2:18 pm

    Tipper,
    Good interview…for a while here in Tennessee we were down to one (1) true outdoors sports writer. One that writes and is paid for a weekly column for a newspaper…
    There are still a few free lance writers and I always look forward to reading their columns…I don’t hunt or am a fantastic specialized “fisherwoman” but have caught some fish in my day…but I love to read about the stories of the experts experiences…especially if they are laced with humor…
    I have a few funny stories that I have collected from our families outdoors experiences hunting, fishing and camping. Keep up the good work Jim…
    Thanks Tipper,

  • Reply
    Ken
    April 19, 2011 at 1:36 pm

    Tipper,
    You did a mighty fine job with this interview of Jim Casada. It
    was through this Blind Pig and the
    Acorn that I was privileged to get
    to meet him. Thank you! Both Jim
    and his brother Don are now my
    friends. Jim is a great American
    writer, one of ours that knows how
    to cultivate and share mountain
    ways of life to all.
    We grew up about 25 miles apart but our paths never crossed, even
    done some of the same things when
    we were boys, and had some of the
    same friends. Looks like we got a
    lot of catching up to do and I
    love trout fishing about the same
    way he does, with fly hooks…Ken

  • Reply
    Lonnie L. Dockery
    April 19, 2011 at 11:51 am

    That was a great interview Tipper! Jim certainly is an accomplished “Son of the Smokies”. He writes so well that sometimes I read his articles for the way they are written and then go back and read again to see what he said! He is the kind of “son” all of us mountain folk take a little pride in.
    Those certainly are some ugly birds in that picture, though!

  • Reply
    Mike McLain
    April 19, 2011 at 10:08 am

    Enjoyed Jim’s interview and it satisfied some of the curiosity I had about his background. When I get moved to Brevard, fly fishing is on my list, so I guess I need to hunt down Jim’s book. As a history buff, I may want to find other works.
    I have spent most of my life out of the mountains for my work career, but I never really left – the heart stayed there.

  • Reply
    Debby Brown
    April 19, 2011 at 8:05 am

    That was fun and Informative! I could have guessed Jim was a writer without ever being told. His comments give him away every time! Always great to read! Thanks for doing the interview with him, its always nice to know a little about the folks one reads something from so often. I get used to the names and then their comments stay so true to who you imagine they are. Makes me feel a bit more like I know those that I so often have breakfast with, even though they don’t know it! We read your lovely thoughts on this or that and then read each others, we share common memories and our memories trigger each others memories and then we end up with our Collective Memories! I just love it! I just realized I said memories way too much, but hey! That’s what this comes down to mostly.. memories.
    Thanks again for making them be like cream and rise to the top!

  • Reply
    GrannyPam
    April 19, 2011 at 7:38 am

    I enjoyed this interview, finding out more about Jim and his writing.

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