“Knock Knocker Scribbles” is a column under our “In It for the Money” category, where you can get to know the Knock Knock team—from creative to sales to logistics to . . . everything! Each week, someone in the office fills out a questionnaire. They are given a day to complete it to their liking, with scrawls, scratch outs, doodles, and all.
Click the pic for an even closer look:
Zooming in more on her nickname story. It really does pull at our heartstrings. We’ll start calling you by either proposed name, Ms. Jamie!
Also, serial-killer audio books?That’s quite the conversation starter.
For our weekly “In It for the Money” feature, we’ll be introducing you to the kick-ass Knock Knockers who make everything go, from creative to sales to logistics to . . . everything! Note—everybody answers the first five questions. After that, they have about fifteen wild-card questions from which to choose.
My husband and I were on the Seal Beach Pier (in my hometown!) this past weekend. Apparently it’s a pier from which casting isn’t allowed and on which people have attempted to use three or more fishing poles at once.
1. Name and title? Jamie Thompson Stern, writer/editor.
2. Originally from? Seal Beach, California. I’m a third-generation native Californian (well, maybe only second-gen—my gold-miner grandfather was a notorious yarn-spinner and claimed a different birthplace every time he was asked).
3. What the hell do you do all day? I research, write, and/or edit books, brainstorm new product ideas, write catalog and marketing copy, and create new versions of our existing products, among other things. There’s a lot of editorial collaboration, which I adore. Sometimes I’m on a single large project from start to finish, sometimes I’m doing lots of smaller projects, and other times I’m pulled in if we’re on a deadline. And I think about em-dashes and serial (AKA Oxford) commas a lot (I’m in favor of both).
4. Favorite thing about working at Knock Knock? Since everyone else has said “the people” (which is the real answer), I’ll tell you the other great thing about working at KK: the anti-boredom factor. Today I researched Marie Antoinette’s breasts, free-associated a list of drinking slogans, briefly powwowed with the other editors to come up with synonyms for “overachieving,” and proofed the marketing copy on a box of paper clips—all in my first hour. (Plus, those of us in the editorial horseshoe laughed really hard about something highly inappropriate, but that happens every day). Did I mention I have the best job in the world?
5. Favorite hobbies outside work? My husband and three kids, reading, Northwestern football (Go ’Cats!), cutting typos out of newspapers and magazines, and volunteering at 826LA, an immensely creative nonprofit writing and tutoring center for local kids. Oh, yeah, and Chelsea Winer, our manufacturing coordinator, turned me on to Smashbooks! I’m addicted.
6. Did your professional life exist before Knock Knock?Yup. I used to work in the movie business. I was a development executive and ran production companies at (among other places) 20th Century Fox, Castle Rock Entertainment, and Universal Studios until I took a break to raise the kids. I bought scripts, books, and story ideas, hired writers, helped shape potential material, and generally shepherded films through the development process. I love writers (and married one) and loved the business, but I don’t miss the hours or the . . . lifestyle.
Respecting a longstanding literary tradition, I enjoy a morning pick-me-up before another grueling day at work.
7. Interesting factoid no one would know about you from first glance?
I’ve been a rotating Von Trapp and also a Main Street floater. I grew up in Orange County, California, which had a surfeit of unintentionally kitschy dinner theaters in the 1980s. One summer after high school I did eight shows a week in The Sound of Music as Liesl (sixteen going on seventeen) or Louisa (fourteen), depending on the day. The same summer, I worked across the street at Disneyland as a floater on Main Street. Any guesses as to what a Main Street floater does? (Hint: Has nothing to do with floats.)
8. What’s currently in your book rotation right now? Mmmmm . . . boooooks . . . I read lots of books at the same time. As Joe Queenan says, “Like any addiction, the insatiable desire to start new books provides immense pleasure.” On my nightstand or stashed around the house: Nicholson Baker’s House of Holes, Thomas McGuane’s Driving on the Rim, Tom Rachman’s The Imperfectionists, and Just My Type: A Book about Fonts by Simon Garfield. My current guilty pleasure is the latest Jack Reacher novel by Lee Child. I’m also rereading my great friend Katie Arnoldi’s classic Chemical Pink. It’s set here in Venice in the 1980s, when I first lived here.
9. Last movie you saw?Just caught the last hour of Inglourious Basterds for the umpteenth time last night. Love Christoph Waltz. What a great film. My husband quotes from it often. And now I know how to order three beers in Germany.
Erin Conley, managing editor, came up with my freelance business card: the P-Touch label gives it that personalized touch.
11. Food or drink you couldn’t live without? Iced tea—I’m an addict. I don’t drink coffee anymore, just black tea, unsweetened, lots of ice. I like to have as many as a dozen large bottles of Tejava in the cupboard at all times. Like an alcoholic, if my supply gets low, I get a little anxious. I’ve been known to run out late at night to pick some up so I’ll have it in the morning.
Check out our journal’s cover! The illustration of the dog (in "play bow" position) with the yellow background is actually a window in which a photo of one's actual dog can be inserted. Cool, right?
As you may have surmised, Knock Knock—and KK-ers—love dogs. I hope you’ve gotten to know a little about Paco and Maisie, our Head Honcho Jen’s goofy and serene (respectively) resident pups, and you may have seen (and purchased!) some of our past animal-loving products: the instructional book How to Have an Ill-Behaved Dog(from our Self-Hurt series), the Pet Organizer, and a KK Pad, “Don’t Kill the Pets.” Yup, we’re dog people. To be fair, we also have cat people here (some of us are even poly-pet-owners or, as Jen likes to put it, “ambipetrous”).
Creating a dog journal had been a pet project (pun intended) of our head honcho’s for some time. Originally envisioned as something along the lines of the classic “baby’s first year” journal, but for dog owners, the idea morphed after some brainstorming as well as because of our support for older and rescue dog adoption. About a thousand hours and a gazillion decisions later, in the spring of 2012, you’ll be able to find It’s a Dog’s Life: A Journal of Our First Year Together in amazing stores near you. After all, whether you get a purebred puppy or a middle-aged mutt, it’s about your dog’s first year with you.
Most people here work in InDesign or Illustrator to write into layout form, but I’m partial to the hand-drawn touch.
One of our main goals for It’s a Dog’s Life was to create a combination guided journal and record-keeping organizer, with a sizable dose of Knock Knock humor. With fill-in-the-blanks, checkboxes, and helpful prompts, as well as interesting monthly content about the care and handling of your pooch (maybe I’ve drunk the orange Kool-Aid, but who doesn’t want to know about, say, canine body language?), this approach entailed a bigger editorial project than a straightforward journal. More factual content always means extra time given to research, fact-checking, and proofing. My first correspondence about this project was on Valentine’s Day 2011, and the final typeset, fully designed files were off to manufacturing at the end of July. We recently got the first proofs back from the printer, and they look great!
A lot of the research was done online, of course, but I also haunted my vet’s office and pet stores for written material. A funny thing happens when you’re researching a new project—everywhere you turn, something pertains to it. The New York Times, YouTube, news stories, my dog Elsa’s several trips to the emergency room (she’s fine)—all provided fodder (kibble?) for the project.
My dog Elsa. She played a part in the product brainstorm.
This was a completely new product for us, which meant free reign to dream up any ideas and concepts—no precedents! This suited me fine, since I take a somewhat unusual approach to writing for layouts—instead of working in Illustrator or InDesign, I dream up content and then sketch it out by hand. This means I need to work closely with a designer because, as you can see, my drawing talent is more MOBA than MOCA. But that’s the only way I can envision the layout as it incorporates text with design. Luckily, I got to work with the brilliant and patient designer Alexis Lowery, who transformed my scribblings into a design approach blending her take on (gotta say it) doggy style with the signature Knock Knock wit. Alexis also found a talented illustrator, Marian Richardson, who brought various dog personalities to life within the pages. I won’t lie—some of it was a struggle to get exactly right (for instance, deciding on the cover took longer than we thought) but in the final push, it just all came together.
I love the result, as do Paco, Maisie, and Elsa, and I hope you will, too!