Meet Betsey O’Brien

Betsey read her first bad poetry in public at age nine and in went on to become a kid reporter for the Salt Lake Tribune. After earning her journalism degree from Northwestern University she took a comfy corporate job, lasting just five years before busting out as a freelance writer and marketing strategist. She recently launched Pen & Hand, a series of journaling courses for writers of all kinds, from the new and terrified to the skilled and passionate. Her methods for helping students get the most from their journaling adventures are drawn from bioscience, improv comedy and even quality control engineering. 



What do you believe?
That words can save us. Holding the right ones in our minds can keep us calm and centered, even in the midst of an unrelenting shit storm. Learning to edit words thrown at us with intention to harm is a high-level skill, but one we all can learn. 

What expression or saying do you love? 
“It works until it doesn’t.” 

What is your favorite song?
“What’s Going On” by Marvin Gaye. I love it so much I asked my family to find an a cappella choir to perform it at my wake. Hope they’ll make good on that one. 

What do you geek out about? 
Everything found in my local hardware store. Magazines published in other countries. Also, fresh-cut flowers. Every container in my house is in danger of becoming a vase at one time or another. 

Who helped you get here?
My adoptive parents and their friends, who were cancer scientists at the University of Utah. Growing up with them and hearing about their work, I fell in love with the mysteries behind their research. Now I see my work through their lens. Words are biochemical messages closely related to feeling and thinking states, so when we change our thoughts, we really do change ourselves.

And there’s my birth mom, who I was really, really fortunate to meet later in life. She is a TRUE badass who hitchhiked her way to the West Coast and back, worked as a draftsman when it really was a man thing and campaigned for wider access to birth control in ultra-conservative Salt Lake City. I’m honored to know her. 


Want more? Connect with Betsey on Twitter and Facebook