In this week’s Meet MEDIA CONNECT profile we spotlight digital publicist Johanna Dickson.
MEDIA CONNECT: If you weren’t promoting books, what would you be doing?
Johanna Dickson: I’d be a human rights lawyer. My dad is a lawyer (and my brother will be soon too!) and he has always thought my excellent argument skills and innate ability to dissect episodes of Law & Order, CSI, and the like would make me a great one. I studied African Studies in college, with a focus on conflicts and humanitarian situations, and wrote my (optional) senior thesis on the American response to crimes of genocide in Bosnia and Rwanda. My goal was to graduate, work for a non-profit for a few years, attend law school and graduate and move to South Africa to begin work. A week before graduation, though, I was offered an internship at a start-up fashion magazine and I decided to take it. It took me on a completely different course! Now seeing my brother go through law school I realize it wasn’t for me after all. Instead, I just devour books on human rights issues and the African continent.
MC: What is one of your favorite quotes?
JD: “Words can be instruments of evil, but they can also be powerful tools of life. If you say the right ones they can save the whole world.” from Paul Rusesabagina’s book An Ordinary Man about his experience as a hotel manager in Rwanda in 1994 (the basis for the movie Hotel Rwanda). I read the book after I wrote my senior thesis and this quote remains with me today.
MC: If you could meet anyone, living or dead, who would you meet?
JD: It’s a tie between Bruce Springsteen and Michael Strahan. I grew up listening to Springsteen (and the E Street Band) and my whole family is obsessed with him. We consider seeing him in concert at Giants Stadium before it was torn down one of the best experiences of our lives. And thanks to my dad, this Maryland-bred girl has been obsessed with the New York Giants since birth. Strahan ranks as my favorite player and I now love catching him on his daytime talk show.
MC: What was the last book you recommended to someone?
JD: At a recent wedding, I implored my cousin to read Travels With Myself And Another by Martha Gellhorn. It’s one of my favorite books of all time. Gellhorn was a war correspondent who got her start covering the Spanish Civil War. This book is a collection of stories from her worst experiences traveling. She writes in the introduction that when you travel, no one wants to hear all the good things that happened, they just want to hear the bad stuff. It had me in stitches.
MC: What do you love most about working in book publishing? Any favorite authors/books?
JD: Seeing all the new books coming out and the chance to read and love a book I wouldn’t ordinarily pick up on my own. I am really enjoying the business book I am currently working on by Nicole Lipkin. It has fascinating insight and advice and I find a lot of it relevant to my own life and work. Additionally, the education book I am working on with Nadine Block about corporal punishment in schools has made me really passionate about the issue. I’ve even written letters to family members who live in states where it is legal to inform them.
MC: Share one humorous childhood story, feel free to embarrass yourself:
JD: It’s not really embarrassing but it is funny. When I was a baby my mom had me in a shopping cart at our local grocery story while she was waiting at the meat counter. I started making these yelping noises that babies often do. The older woman standing next to us suddenly started yelling at me. She told me not to yell at her and that I was being rude. I was no more than six months old at the time, mind you. My mom pointed out I was a baby and was just making noises and that frankly I wouldn’t understand anyway but the woman was adamant I knew what I was doing. She walked off in a huff, still yelling at me.