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Penmanship

Penmanship is a podcast about Australian writing culture. It features interviews with Australians who earn a living from working with words: writers, journalists, editors and publishers, among others. Each episode features an in-depth, one-on-one conversation about the guest’s career, craft and inner life. The goal of Penmanship is to provide unique insights into the creative process, mechanics and skills behind the best writing in the country. The podcast exists to explore the diversity and complexity of Australian storytelling by speaking directly with leading contributors to the field.
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Mar 23, 2016

Kathleen Noonan is a journalist and weekly columnist at The Courier-Mail.

For 13 years, she has written a column in the Saturday Courier-Mail named 'Last Word'. It's a blank canvas where she is tasked with writing one thousand words about whatever has caught her eye or piqued her interest out in the world that week. It seems no topic is too big or too small for this canvas: I've been reading her every Saturday for about six years, and that column is among the most consistently fascinating, moving and insightful pages I'll read all week. Besides being an eminently experienced and capable journalist, I have long wondered how Kathleen manages to write such wonderfully original material based only on her careful observations and analysis of herself and other people. It's a brilliant trick, and her name has been near the top of my list since I first conceived of using Penmanship as a vehicle to meet and interview my favourite Australian writers.

I met Kathleen at her home in East Brisbane on a Monday morning in mid-March, where I was enthusiastically greeted by her white Jack Russell puppy, Basil, who was keen on playing with the stranger in his house while we chatted nearby Kathleen's writing desk. The sounds of suburbia were in chorus that morning, prompting her to shut the window and doors to avoid power tools and leaf blowers on a couple of occasions. Our conversation touches on how Kathleen manages to come up with fresh ideas for 'Last Word' each week; how she decided to write a column about the recent passing of her beloved greyhound, which prompted an unexpected flood of reader mail; what led her to seek out a job as a cadet reporter in North Queensland; how she handled the tricky task of performing 'death knocks', and the advice that she tends to give when aspiring journalists contact her.

Kathleen Noonan is a Brisbane-based journalist and columnist.  She has written a weekly opinion column named 'Last Word' in Saturday’s Courier-Mail for 13 years. Raised on a farm amid paddocks of sugarcane in north Queensland, Kathleen did her early news reporting in the Mackay district. After reporting in South Africa through the dying years of apartheid and release of Nelson Mandela, and a stint travelling and writing in the UK, Kathleen returned home, working as a freelance journalist for publications including The Australian. She returned to The Courier-Mail as a news reporter, sub-editor, section head and senior features writer. Her weekly column explores everything from love, death, books, running, music, poetry, teachers, refugees and chooks. She is also chair of the Second Chance committee, the only charity in Australia that raises money exclusively for homeless women. It helps fund crisis accommodation for elderly women, young teenagers with babies, and at-risk women and children in Queensland’s domestic violence shelters.

Show notes and links to what was discussed in this episode: http://penmanshippodcast.com/episode-20-kathleen-noonan/

Penmanship on Twitter: @PenmanshipAU

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