Editor of Fresh Water Magazine sees poetry in machines

(image courtesy of Bob Perkoski Photography)

Erin O’Brien was deep in her career as a project engineer with BP America. She says it was a lucrative and great career, but all of that changed when her brother, Novelist John O’Brien, known for Leaving Las Vegas, committed suicide. This caused Erin to re-evaluate her life. BP was leaning staff and offered a buyout. Erin says “I didn’t want to sit in an office looking at designs for panel boards for the rest of my life.” In 1995, an author was born.

With no formal training, she tried her hand at fiction and nonfiction but found her calling by working as a journalist. She advises young writers: “Sit in a room and write and write and write.” For her, this philosophy resulted in her first published clip in 2000. She was paid $5 by Ohio Writer Magazine for a 900-word book review. She went on to freelance, including writing features for Fresh Water since its second or third issue in 2010. During that time, she covered brick-and-mortar news and penned profiles for other area magazines on many area manufacturing companies, including Vitamix, OsteoSymbionics, Excelas, Nestle, Ohio Awning and Manufacturing, and Quasar Energy Group. As she talks about how her technical background has helped her as a writer, she relates her experience writing about an anaerobic ingestor that turns organic waste into compressed natural gas, “We have to be a translator and distill technical information into readable, engaging prose. These people work hard and want to tell their stories.”

With an ongoing interest in manufacturing and industry, in 2013, O’Brien visited HGR Industrial Surplus’ showroom where she was profoundly moved because her dad, who died in 2002, was a machinist. In response, she wrote a blog post about HGR that came to the attention of Tina Dick, HGR’s human resources manager. Dick hired O’Brien to put together a timeline of the company’s historical site for its dedication ceremony. O’Brien also included HGR in a story about upcycling resources for local industrial artists. And, she covered HGR’s dedication ceremony for Fresh Water. She says, “HGR is one of my favorite places in Northeast Ohio. It houses machines that represent the Rust Belt. It’s just poetry.”

After working as a feature writer and development news writer with Fresh Water, she recently was promoted to managing editor and has put her freelance activities on hold to focus on the weekly e-magazine. She shares that the magazine’s perspective “is about what’s fresh and new in Cleveland that The Plain Dealer or Cleveland.com are not covering, or about covering those stories from a new angle.” The magazine’s focus is on arts and culture, innovation, human-interest stories. Her vision is “to re-energize the magazine as we travel through 2016, with a keen awareness of the elephants headed this way and that all eyes will be on us this summer. Let’s look gorgeous while everyone is looking at Cleveland, Ohio, and showcase its diversity,” she states.

She sums up with her thoughts on Cleveland’s manufacturing future: “One sector that can’t be denied in Northeast Ohio is the medical sector. We also have housing stock that is affordable. There is a Renaissance that has resulted in low vacancy rates downtown. A lot is percolating. We may not be the blue-collar town that we once were, but I’m excited to see what Cleveland will look like in the next 10 years.”


Get insider access to exclusive offers, special events, and HGR news!

Contact (Name of Sales Rep)

[contact-form-7 id="108241" title="Sales Rep Contact Form"]

Contact (Name of Sales Rep)

[contact-form-7 id="133177" title="Sales Rep Contact Form"]