The Frostburg Center for Creative Writing continued its series of author visits Tuesday night, with an appearance by English professor and writer Katie Fallon. Fallon, who currently teaches creative writing at West Virginia University, visited Frostburg in order to promote her book Cerulean Blues: A Personal Search for a Vanishing Songbird, a nonfiction account of her experiences tracking and studying the cerulean blue. This is Professor Fallon's second trip to Frostburg this month, with her reading Tuesday coming two weeks after she joined the Center for Creative Writing for their more informal Coffee with a Writer series.
While the cerulean blue is both the title of Ms. Fallon's first book, and the headline for the event, the bird hardly appeared during her two readings. The first reading, from a forthcoming book project on the buzzard and other carrion birds, was a sneak peak at the opening chapter which explained why she has an interest in the usually maligned birds. While the first reading was well-received, it was the second reading, from her first book, that really got the attention of the crowd of about two dozen. Reading from the early chapters of Cerulean Blues, Ms. Fallon retold her experience during the Virginia Tech massacre, which she lived through first-hand as a member of the English department faculty. Many in the crowd were moved by Fallon's tale, which included recollections of a favorite student who was killed and dealing with the aftermath. Shannon McLeod, a sophomore English major at Frostburg, said that the second reading "almost brought me to tears."
Both readings included stunning details about Ms. Fallon's experiences, along with specific dialog. Dr. Frank Parks, who teaches creative nonfiction at Frostburg, asked Ms. Fallon how she managed to recall all of the details, or if any of it was composites from other experiences. Fallon responded that she "keeps my journal with me at all times so I have a way to keep track" and also explained that she uses her cellphone to record conversations while birding, so she can reproduce them exactly in her books. This answer was quickly followed up by the explanation that she does let everyone know that they are being recorded, so there are no legal objections.
This appearance also allowed the Center for Creative Writing to utilize the Lyric theater, a little-known room located behind the center. With the larger crowd attending the event, the Center would have been overwhelmed, while the Lyric was able to accommodate the bigger group.