Kircher takes readers to “Far Flung” places with new collection of essays

Professor of English Cassie Kircher has published her first book, “Far Flung,” that offers insight into her travels and life in the wilderness.

Cassie Kircher takes readers up to the mountain top and back again with her first book, “Far Flung,” recently published by West Virginia University Press.

​Look no further than the complete title of the book “Far Flung: Improvisations on National Parks, Driving to Russia, Not Marrying a Ranger, the Language of Heartbreak, and Other Natural Disasters,” to gain a sense of the personal nature and narrative structure of this new collection of essays.

“When I first started writing, I was very much attached to the short form of an essay,” Kircher says of her beginnings as a writer. “The personal essay allows you to see how other people think—as much as we can do that—and I think a lot of people are interested in that play of the mind and the interiority of the individual.”

In “Far Flung,” Kircher has brought together essays detailing various points in her life, from a childhood spent in the outdoors of the American West, to her time spent as a National Park Service ranger in the Rocky Mountains, to her travels in Russia and Alaska. Kircher was the first woman to patrol an isolated backcountry district of Colorado’s Rocky Mountain National Park, and she details that experience in various essays appearing in “Far Flung.”

A photo of Kircher during her time as a ranger in the Rocky Mountains with the National Park Service.
​The collection of 13 essays is divided into two sections — “Near” and “Far” — and contains both previously published essays and work appearing for the first time. Kircher says her first attempt to create a collection of essays produced a book focused exclusively on her time as a park ranger. “I thought I was creating a book about my seven years working and living in a national park,” Kircher says.  

But while on sabbatical in 2017, she realized that the book should focus not just on the Rockies, but on how the wilderness extended into her life after leaving it.

“Once I realized the extent that I’d brought my experiences in the park with me to the rest of my life,” she says, “the book began to fall into place.”

From the publisher’s description of the book:

Divided and defined by geographic and psychological space, “Far Flung” begins in the Rockies but broadens its focus as Kircher negotiates places as distant as Alaska’s Kenai Peninsula, Russia’s Siberian valleys, and Wisconsin’s lake country, always with Colorado as a heartfelt pivot. These thirteen essays depict a woman coming to terms with her adoration for the wilds of the West and will resonate with all of us longing to better understand ourselves and our relationships to the places and people we love most.

“Affection for a place matters,” Kircher says. “If readers see that affection in my work and can apply it to a place they love, I would be more than pleased.”

Kircher’s work has previously appeared in North Dakota Quarterly, South Dakota Review, Cold Mountain Review, Flyway, Apalachee Review and the anthology “Permanent Vacations: Twenty Writers on Work and Life in Our National Parks.”

Her essays have received awards including a Pushcart Prize nomination, first place in the Flyway’s 2010 Notes from the Field contest and a “Best American Essays” citation.  

The English Department hosted a reception for Kircher on May 9 when the book was officially released. Kircher will give a public reading on Wednesday, Sept. 11, at 7 p.m. in Johnston Hall. A book signing will follow.