Music as Muse

violin against the doorRecently a fellow writer asked for me to share my writing playlist, which for those “in the know” is the music soundtrack or score that we writers listen to while writing. It’s the music that sets the tone, or evokes a mood, that we can use to help write a scene. Not to be confused with a playlist we might assign to a novel or story once it’s complete. Or a playlist we might assign to a particular character to showcase that character’s tastes.

I’m pretty particular about the music I listen to while I’m actually putting pen to paper or fingers to keyboard, mostly because I get distracted by heavy beats and lyrics. I need music that can run in the background of my subconscious, otherwise I’ll spend too much time listening to the music, and not writing.

So with that in mind, my writing playlist includes but is not limited to:

George Winston, Enya, Sade, Yoko Kanno, Loreena McKennit, Secret Garden, Aaberg-Friesen-Silverman, John Barry’s Out of Africa soundtrack, Elisa, R. Carlos Nakai, Ludovico Elnaudi, and Brian Crain.

This is a completely different set of artists than who I listen to while I’m grading; a post left for another day.

Happy writing.

Photograph © Alptraum

What’s to Like About Rockford: Toad Hall, The Coolest Place You Didn’t Know About

Toad Hall Frontage

Toad Hall Frontage

Well you might have known about it, but I sure didn’t. Not until one of my students wrote about the place in a report for class, and all the time while I’m reading I’m thinking, “I need to go to to this store. How cool is this!” And so I did. And you know what?


Love the warm tone of a vinyl record album? They’ve got thousands, from Aerosmith to Mozart to ZZ Top.
Looking for a comic from childhood? Got ’em.
Books in general? Stacked to the ceiling.
Magazines? Those too.
Movie posters. Cassettes and 8 track tapes, 8mm movies, vintage toys, art . . .

Toad Hall Main Floor

Toad Hall Main Floor

And just when you think you’ve seen it all, you round the corner and there’s another nook filled to the brim, another stairwell that leads to another floor with overflowing shelves of Life magazine, TV Guide, true crime books, classical choral and orchestra recordings, Nancy Drew, and Little Golden Books. In this store, John Belushi lives next door to Betty Davis and Louis Armstrong. There is literally and musically, something for everyone.

Toad Hall Main Floor 2

Toad Hall Main Floor Record Bins

So much fun to browse. Plan on spending at least a couple hours. But let’s say you are an out of state friend, or even– out of the continent. That’s okay too, because even though Toad Hall sells a lot of “blast from the past” they are a techno savvy modern day company with an UBER COOL website you can check out here:

I went to take a couple pictures and completely lost track of time. I brought my oldest kid, who quickly found the pinball machine. Oh, and you never know who you might run into. Rick Nielsen, from Cheap Trick, likes the place too.

So where to go to find the gem that is Toad Hall? 2106 Broadway Rockford, IL 61104, Hours: Wed-Sun, 12pm-5pm. And, yes, I bought something while visiting for this blog post. Tales from the Crypt, Issues 11-15, Vol 3 Reprint. Couldn’t help myself.

Pictures (C) Karin Blaski 3/30/13

What’s to Like About Rockford: The Nutcracker at The Coronado Theatre


An annual holiday tradition in Rockford, The Nutcracker is performed by the Rockford Symphony Orchestra and the Rockford Dance Company. This year the dancers and musicians were exceptional, the choreography whimsical and lovely. A review can be read here.

The venue contributes the rest of the magic and still manages to take my breath away every time I go, whether for The Nutcracker or for one of the many Broadway shows that travel through Rockford. Built in the 1920s, the theater first opened in 1927. After falling into disrepair over the years, the theatre was completely renovated and re-opened in 2001. You can read The Coronado’s Wikipedia entry here. There is also a terrific book about the history and restoration of the theatre by Gwendolyn Quirk, which can be found at Amazon here.

Dubbed Rockford’s Crown Jewel, photos can’t completely capture the grandness of this theater, but I tried:


Chandelier at the Coronado Theatre, Rockford, IL, hanging between Southwest and Southeast stairwells.


The stage and audience at The Coronado Theatre, Rockford, IL, as viewed from the left lower balcony.


The ceiling of the lobby, Coronado Theatre, Rockford, IL.

Photographs by Karin Blaski 12/2/12