A few early directions for the "What I Love about You" cover. It's like those block letters demanded you to love.
I got the idea for What I Love about You from a gift I received several years ago. It’s just a tiny spiral Mead notebook, but it instantly became (and remains) my most prized possession.
Maybe on some subconscious level I thought, everyone should know how this feels: to be told in concrete terms the many ways they are loved. And, on the flip side, everyone should have the chance to articulate their affection in all its glorious specificity. To place colorful leaves and nests of birds on the branches of “I love you.”
This idea, completely ripped off from my genius boyfriend—and a lifelong love of Mad Libs—is how What I Love about You was born.
I absolutely loved working on this book. Not only did it reaffirm my faith in drinking, it actually confirmed my love of humanity. (It’s notable how intertwined these are for me.)
One of our design and editorial inspirations for this book was the "Miss Manners" series.
There are already several good toasting books on the market. But we knew we wanted to do something different, something Knock Knocky. Yes, we planned to provide etiquette, classic toasts, and guidelines for toasting structure. But the abiding sentiments behind the book’s creation were pro-drinking, pro-funny, and pro-messy humanity. The idea was to make people laugh even as we imparted the do’s, don’ts, and I-dare-you’s of toasting. I think we accomplished this goal—and then some.
We did a good deal of brainstorming to devise the book’s sections. We planned a section of toasts for life’s more awkward occasions, such as job losses, breakups, completion of 12-step programs, etc. We also decided to include tips on how to fake a great toast if you’re shy or lazy. And we got really excited about a “Mad Libs”-style section of fill-in-the-blank instant toasts. (They’re even perforated, so you can tear them out.) We also chose the fourteen most important occasions for toasting (wedding, funeral, dinner party, etc.) and devoted a whole spread to each one.
An earlier draft of the book's cover—one of many. Our former senior designer Brad Serum designed "Toasted" using illustrations with both a vintage and proper etiquette-esque feel.
I suspected (correctly) that all this material would be fun to research and write. But we also felt it was important to briefly cover the history of toasting—a task that seemed comparatively dry, so to speak, at the outset. You can imagine my shock and delight to learn that the history of toasting is beyond fascinating. The truth is, toasting goes back nearly as far as drinking itself, and it has mystical, esoteric roots. (Even now, you can see this aspect at play in such sacraments as the Holy Eucharist.) I discovered the works of numerous academics who study the history or alcohol and toasting, including biomolecular archaeologist Patrick E. McGovern. (His book Uncorking the Past:The Quest for Wine, Beer, and Other Alcoholic Beverages is so beautiful in parts, it brought tears to my eyes.) I learned about toasting’s integral role in the American Revolution. The book also includes a poem/toast composed by an American prisoner in the “Hanoi Hilton” which has become a traditional toast to POW/MIA soldiers used at Air Force dinners. (Its writer, Navy Captain Gerald Coffee, gave us his blessing and made sure we got the wording exactly right, since many bastardized versions are floating around on the Internet.)
To continue the historical fun, we also researched how to make authentic versions of old-timey drinks such as wassail and 1775 rum punch, and amusing international customs and regional drinks. We also found loads of funny real-life historical toasts, and witty toasts from the silver screen.
In sum, Toasted embraces toasting in all its awkward, human glory—because it’s about much more than knowing when to raise your glass. And heaven knows, a “bad” toast can be damned memorable (as many toasters may attest, including some US presidents). We hope this knowledge will free you, the reader, from stage fright, and even help you enjoy this most essential of human rituals. After all, since toasting has a long, rich, and incredibly drunken history, what’s one more messed-up toast on the historic pile?
Terrible Toast Giveaway: Win Your Own Copy of “Toasted”!
This contest is now closed.
It’s wedding season—a time when levels of blissfulness and schadenfreude peak simultaneously. Have you witnessed any tips-the-awkward-scale toasts lately? Or have you delivered any yourself? Well, we want to read them (out of sheer enjoyment).
We’re giving away a copy of our brand new Toasted book and $25 worth of Knock Knock stuff to one lucky Knock Knock fan, who submits the best god-awful toast! (Note: it doesn’t have to be a wedding toast.)
2. Submit one story of a terrible toast you witnessed or recited personally to email@example.com. The submission must be a minimum of 100 words and not exceed 200 words. Also, please include your first name, age, hometown, and email address with your entry.
This contest ends Friday, July 20 at 11:59 p.m. PST. Submit before then, peeps!
As you know, we at Knock Knock are passionate lovers of pencils, paper, and printing presses. I was therefore thrilled last Friday to attend a party for Slake, a new Los Angeles literary quarterly that proudly exists only in paper form. That is, it exists only in real life.
Slake started in summer 2010, and is currently on its fourth issue (“The Dirt”). The journal is new, but has already won several awards (and hit the Los Angeles Times’ bestseller list) for its content—which combines visual art, photography, poetry, long-form journalism, fiction, oral history, and memoir. Its founders, Laurie Ochoa and Joe Donnelly, were formerly the editors of LA Weekly. (On a personal note, I worked with Joe and Laurie for years as a writer and editor for the Weekly, so the party was a homecoming for me.)
"Slake" founder Laurie Ochoa, taking a picture of me while I take a picture of her, because it's just so fucking meta.
Slake is all about fostering a community of writers and artists who are deeply rooted and in—and in love with—Los Angeles, and it’s also about staking a claim for paper as a beautiful and viable medium. As their website proclaims, “Slake sets a new template for the next generation of print publications—collectible, not disposable; destined for the bedside table instead of the recycling bin.”
As previously mentioned, paper is something that exists only in real life. You know something else that only exists in real life? Free beer.
Quantities of free beer were available at this party; the evidence of this is in the blurry, slurry photos I managed to either take or pose for. It may or may not be worth mentioning that free pie was also served by Suicide Girls.
A blurry, blinky shot of Joe and me.
Besides live music and dance performances, other stuff on offer included an exhibition of beautiful photographs of the Occupy L.A. encampment; video footage from the LA riots; and a station where people could create album art for the new vinyl LP by Detective (a musical project from Guided By Voices member James Greer, who is also a Slake contributor).
Laurie Ochoa says that Slake is meant to be enjoyed slowly, in bed or otherwise in a state of repose—and then kept. It should be noted, another advantage to the print-only format is that after inevitable disaster strikes, taking down the “grid,” and we are all shivering in our homes with candles and limited water, Slake will remain to provide us survivors with hours of meaningful, thought-provoking, mind-enriching entertainment. Hey, it’s L.A. Anything could happen.
People making album covers for Detective, the musical project from "Slake" contributor (and ex-Guided By Voices member) James Greer.
Last Saturday was cold, and I stayed at home to do laundry and clean house. For company I had The Monkees DVDs playing all day in the living room. It was excellent. As I discovered, it’s difficult—nay, impossible—to sustain any really respectable ennui while The Monkees is on all day.
The editorial ladies wrote sweet nothings to Davy.
I decided that this would be my new thing—The Monkees, all the time. And then Davy Jones goes ahead and checks out a couple days ago—throwing a you-know-what-kind-of-wrench in the plan. Damn you, Davy.
But thank you, Davy.
Judging by many of the obits, it was not easy being Davy Jones. People feel they should apologize for having been fans. One NPR senior editor went so far as to write that she was “embarrassed” and felt shame about her childhood crush on Davy.
That just brings me down, man. I have no shame—and, in fact, I feel lucky that they showed Monkees reruns when I was little, so that I, too, could experience crushing out on this quintessential manchild. (The TV show was cancelled after only two seasons.)
Little kids have always gotten the awesomeness of the Monkees. But Davy personified what a lot of older people thought was wrong with the Monkees. Davy was an actor. He didn’t appear to play an instrument. He was cute. He had no gravitas. As the face of a band so ridiculed and belittled (even now), he must have borne the brunt of that stigma. But he seemed to do it with good cheer.
My Davy collage. The teenybopper in me had to.
The truth is that the Monkees were legitimate pop artists, creating influential and visionary TV and film—seriously, you can’t judge them until you’ve seen their prescient, postmodern feature, Head (co-written and coproduced by Jack Nicholson). Musically, they forced themselves through a kind of rock ’n’ roll bootcamp, and less than a year after their TV show’s debut became a real, live touring band. They played and wrote songs for their extraordinary third album Headquarters, and every one after that.
And none of it would have worked without Davy. He brought a totally sincere joy of performance to the proceedings that cut through the irony and made something real and delightful (like his silly rendition of Harry Nilsson’s “Cuddly Toy”). Davy was a showman, a Broadway crooner, a hoofer, and he had no shame about it, however uncool it might have seemed to some. He danced with naked pleasure, and sang with an innocence that was outré at the time—but could be utterly affecting when paired with the right material. A friend saw him perform “Daydream Believer,” oddly enough, on U2’s superslick, mega-ironic “Popmart” tour, and completely win over a stadium audience you’d think would have been over it. But Davy was never over it.
In Spring of 2012, Knock Knock will unleash a product of such visceral power and mind-blowing intensity, it is destined to set the world afire. Or, at least, delight a few people who enjoy tiny slips of paper with tiny words printed on them.
Introducing . . . "A Year of Fortunes (Without the Cookies)"!
A Year of Fortunes (Without the Cookies) is the world’s first book of fortune-cookie fortunes presented in a handy perforated format for easy tearing-and-sharing—365 of ’em. To wit:
• You will be successful in monkey business.
• Dance like no one is watching, because probably no one is.
• Less is more but more is more fun.
This book was one of my first projects at Knock Knock (I started working here in March 2011), and writing and editing it was a delicious task. I have always loved fortune cookies—the paper, the messages, and the cookies. I can hardly imagine anything more wonderful than a cookie you can read (or a fortune you can eat). I still remember a fortune I got in high school: Beauty is in your heart. Let it out. Let it beat. Give yourself a treat. Somebody wrote that! And then they put it in a cookie!
As you can imagine, research was grueling. I had to purchase (and consume) bags of cookies from several Asian eateries as well as the 99¢ store to gather a wide sampling of fortune-cookie styles. Torture.
1. Our designer Alexis' quick, hand-drawn sketch for the cover. She wanted us to emphasize "quick."; 2. Another sketched out design cover by the lovely Alexis.; 3. The final cover!
To write the book’s introduction, I also read as much as I could find about the origins of fortune cookies, which is a subject worthy of its own book and movie. At risk of blowing your mind, I will just say right now that fortune cookies come from Japan—and when you stop to think about that, it makes perfect sense. (A white slip of paper with a small, mysterious message—it just feels Japanese.)
Several other writers contributed to the book (including my brother, Ben!), and we also bought a magic number-picking contraption from 1913 to choose the lucky numbers for each fortune. (Not really.)
I really wanted to call it The Fortune Bookie (as did our head honcho, Jen) but we were overruled. That’s okay. The goal was to make something that would provide whimsy and delight every day, and I think we succeeded. I am so happy with the book, and its puffy red satin cover, I am going to go pass out.
So happy to see the final product! I literally had tears of joy.
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.
I'm hard at work, "researching."
1. Name and title? Kate Sullivan, assistant editor.
2. Originally from? Los Angeles. I was born in the original Cedars of Lebanon Hospital, which is now the big blue Scientology building in Hollywood.
3. What the hell do you do all day? Smash subatomic particles in search of the elusive Higgs boson. Also, I write, edit, and proofread books and products, and help to invent new ones.
4. Favorite thing about working at Knock Knock?
1. Working at my desk while there’s a creative meeting downstairs. Every so often, the quiet is broken by these wild outbursts of maniacal laughter. It is very reassuring.
2. Everyone in the editorial horseshoe is constantly laughing to herself while working. Unlike most offices, we usually don’t ask each other what’s so funny, because we’d never get anything done.
5. Favorite hobbies outside work? Landscape design. Disneyland. Sleeping. Cooking. Drinking. Writing. Partying with my animals.
Some of the loves of my lives: my cat Flower and my dog Toby. 1. Flower as a kitten.; 2. Toby; 3. Flower and Toby being Flower and Toby.
6. Did your professional life exist before Knock Knock? No. I hypnotized them during the interview process with my skills of interpretive dance.
Just kidding. My first “job” was at an English-language newspaper in Prague called Prognosis. I was a journalist for many years, music editor at LA Weekly, and also had a public radio show called Pop Vultures. I loved interviewing musicians. I have some pretty good stories.
7. Favorite Knock Knock product? The Personal Library Kit. My mom teaches writing and I gave it to her years ago to make sure she gets back all the books she loans to her students. More recently, my wonderful boyfriend became a librarian, so this product has even more sentimental meaning to me.
8. Favorite TV show? Of all time: Gilmore Girls (I love it madly. But I’m not a chat room weirdo with twenty-seven cats about it, I swear). Of the moment: Two Broke Girls. (They have a real, live horse!)
9. Pet peeves? It bugs me when businesses use “at” in their name to sound fancy. I just went to a hotel called “SLS at Beverly Hills.” What’s up with that? Were they trying to be more grammatically correct, since they’re actually on the far edge of Beverly Hills? (I doubt it.)
Another pet peeve is music snobbery—the idea that ELO, Hall & Oates, the Bee Gees, or Herb Alpert & the Tijuana Brass should be “guilty” or ironic pleasures.
10. Hero in life you look up to? Lately I’m really into my dad—totally classy, witty, wonderful writer and man. Also, Vin Scully, every native Angeleno’s second dad. Oh, and the always effervescent Roger Ebert. OK, that’s like two and a half dads right there! (Can I add Barack Obama?)
11. If you were granted one wish, what would it be? That radio ownership laws had never been deregulated and that the mp3 and ProTools had never been invented. I guess that’s three. OK, how about this, then: that music was as good as it was forty years ago, in the era of Queen, Led Zeppelin, T. Rex, the Temptations, etc.
12. What advice would you give your past self? Don’t let the robots in!
Our All Out Of grocery list pad (“The miracle of checking off depleted items as you go”) is our bestselling product of all time. We’ve sold over 600,000 of these babies in America so far—a pretty big deal! But sometimes don’t we all lack more than produce and canned goods? In the series “_____’s All Out Of,” we’ll be looking at the things some of us need that can’t be purchased at the supermarket. We’d also love to hear from you—what do you wish you could put on your shopping list?
Click to see what's on her list!
Who’s all out of: Kate Sullivan, assistant editor
Why she’s all out of these things:
Morrissey/G.B. Shaw: You may have noticed that, because I have no need for tofu, I changed the “Vegetarian” section to “Vegetarians.” I need these guys because when I last checked the pantry, my Soulful Dry Wit carton was almost empty!
Time: With more time, I could become the workaholic I have always secretly wanted to be.
Magic carpet: My “Bi-Locator” teleportation device is in the shop. How else can I fly to work from Pasadena every morning?!
Miniature cow: My cuteness needs are considerable and ever-expanding.
Lavender farm: Lavender is the queen of all plants, with remarkable and near-mystical powers. I believe I could happily devote my life to it, much as a monk might devote his life to hops.
What she thinks having these things will do for her:
Miniature cow: if I had a zebu, a dwarf cow from India, I could have free fresh organic milk every day, plus I could hug the cow and talk to him or her. I would get a miniature cow at the same time that I get my lavender farm. These purchases would both make me happy and very tired, I do realize. Taking care of a little cow and managing a farm would be madness. But then I can stop taking Benadryl and wine to fall asleep (I would be too exhausted to even take Nyquil)! (However the Nyquil is strictly recreational.)
What she has to say about her nonfantasy grocery items:
Jen recently baked a fruit crumble that represented a paradigm shift for me: I went from being a chocolate-oriented dessert person to a fruit-oriented dessert person. It was crumbelievable. So I would need the sugar, butter, sliced almonds, flour, blueberries, and peaches to recreate this amazing concoction.