December AWC-SB Spotlight: Kathleen Sharp

Member Spotlight: Kathleen Sharp

Written by AWC-SB Member Judy Hawkins

AWC-SB member, Kathleen Sharp is an award-winning investigative journalist, author, and film producer. A PEN Literary Journalism finalist, she is a current contributor to ProPublica, a national Pulitzer Prize-winning nonprofit newsroom partnering with hundreds of news organizations from ABC to Yahoo!. She researches true stories worldwide to transform her creative narratives.

“I’ve always wanted to write since I was little,” Kathleen recalls, “and I’ve been able to do just that in my career.”  She worked for the iconic New York Times and Los Angeles Times, as well as locally for the Santa Barbara News-Press business section.  With a solid start in traditional journalism, Kathleen has grown to love and excel at bringing novelistic techniques and dialogues to real-world investigations.

Many of her books began as magazine pieces and became movies. For example, Mr. & Mrs. Hollywood: Edie and Lew Wasserman and Their Entertainment Empire (Carroll & Graf), chronicles Hollywood’s secret history. Kathleen interviewed over 400 film stars and industry moguls for this work including Gregory Peck, Steven Spielberg, Tony Curtis, Janet Lee, and shark-suited executives who competed against the emergent Universal Studios.  Her story became a film documentary that played at the Santa Barbara International Film Festival and earned an Audience Award at the Palm Springs Film Festival. Today, her book has been optioned by producers of HBO’s Tokyo Vice for a limited series.

Kathleen is intrigued by the secretive world of art markets. Imagine traveling with her to France recently to see illicit art being auctioned in a  chic part of Paris. We see anxious characters frantically bidding on one-of-a-kind artifacts. We quiver in the contagious frenzy of bidding. Our skin prickles in the suspense of uncertainty.  Who will win the most prized object? That’s exactly how Kathleen wants you to feel when you read her work – like you are there in the moment with all your senses heightened!

What makes Kathleen feel most alive in her work? You may have guessed it: storytelling! Stories connect us to one another, help us see different perspectives, and can shift our attitudes on politics, relationships, education, or the environment.  Kathleen believes that sustaining a vibrant, competitive media market stocked with solid journalists helps us stay engaged, make decisions and sustain a healthy democracy. Journalism informs voters on issues and candidates, helps parents select schools, and apprise small business owners of market trends.  “It’s like oxygen,” she muses, “We need good local journalism  to function.”

Discerning between fake news and facts is a skill we can hone with practice. Kathleen’s pro tip: read beyond the TV crawler and radio headlines. “It takes sleuthing, but if it sounds too fantastic or too funny, it just might be false!”  Reflecting on the print journalism industry, Kathleen says that she “sometimes feels like an endangered species.” While it may be difficult for print journalists today, streaming services have given new life to skilled storytellers.

An AWC Women of Achievement honoree, Kathleen appreciates our local chapter as a wonderful resource that not only provides social joy but practical skills shared by women who work outside her industry. “It’s a great group that lifts everybody up.” When she is not traveling, Kathleen enjoys hiking in the Santa Barbara backcountry and surfing the occasional wave. She’s a big fan of live music at the Santa Barbara Bowl. While she will follow a source halfway around the world, some of Kathleen’s best tales take place in the West. “This region has been my perch!”

Thank you, Kathleen, for sharing some of your own herstory to be featured in this month’s AWC-SB Member Spotlight.

Judy Hawkins, Ruby Road Leadership. Judy works in the intersection of leadership coaching, strengths-based program design, and visual facilitation to serve and inspire collaborative action with teams, leaders, boards, and organizations. Ruby Road is a networked business that partners with associates and clients to elevate creativity and entrepreneurial culture in the business and social sectors.

Scroll to Top