NEWS! Prologue phase of my graphic novel funded by a grant from @VanHeritage

I am so delighted to share that I have received a Vancouver Heritage Foundation Yosef Wosk Publication Grant to complete and produce the prologue, aka “cold open,” (in broadsheet newspaper format) to my creative non-fiction graphic novel project!

A cold open (also called a teaser sequence) is a narrative technique (used in television and films). It is the practice of jumping directly into a story at the beginning of the show.

The graphic novel project is a family saga intertwined with a crime analysis. It is based on extensive historical, genealogical and psychological research. I use primary sources and creativity to build the story.

I first immersed myself in a Vancouver cold case investigation in 2003 when I volunteered as a researcher and student criminal profiler with the Babes in the Woods Task Force. The initial goal of my research was to help identify the children whose skeletal remains were found in Stanley Park on January 15, 1953.

Little did I know the work would take me deep into creative process, to unexpected places, in unexpected directions, finding unexpected stories, guided by, what I can only call, unexpected ghosts.  It has become my life’s work.

I first wrote a criminal profile, then a two-part manuscript/research paper.

I then workshopped the analysis into a creative and visual story – an experimental illustrated scrapbook/graphic novel titled Molly, A True Crime Analysis. Drawings, photographs, and text were shared in weekly online instalments between January 15, 2017 and January 13, 2018.

Since then, I have immersed myself even deeper into this project (“the FOURTH DRAFT”), retitled Joseph. The (currently) 466 page non-fiction manuscript will be reworked over the next couple of years into a three season (4 parts per season) illustrated series.

ILLUSTRATION: Joseph O., intake photo, November 1948. © Katarina Thorsen, 2022


Joseph will braid multiple time-periods in service to the story, allowing the series greater depth, nuance and suspense. Overall, the series is an investigation into the key players circumstantially connected to a real-life cold case, acting as a type of literary criminal profile. The entire saga spans across several decades and explores mental health treatment, homicide/filicide/suicide, trauma, corruption, immigration, social stigma as well as criminal and journalistic investigations.

This is [currently] a work of creative nonfiction inspired by true facts, physical evidence and historical research. I attempt to stick to the facts and avoid assumptions, yet draw conclusions from circumstantial evidence. Fictionalization may be used for dramatic purposes, but the work is entirely inspired by primary sources and physical evidence. In the end, however, this is my artistic interpretation and nothing more than that.

JOSEPH, the prologue, will use a minimum of words (the story told through a visual narrative) in an 8-page newspaper broadsheet to be released mid-2022. Between January-April 2022, I will illustrate and complete the 8-page publication. The thumbnail layout is complete, as is the 5-act structure/outline, but the illustration process will undoubtedly take me in unexpected directions. The grant will cover specialized printing costs. Copies will be donated to the Vancouver Heritage Foundation Reading Room. I have started to apply to various 2022 Comic Arts and Zine festivals.

The broadsheet format hopes to reawaken interest in “THE NEWSPAPER” and its tactile connection to history and place. It also celebrates the fact that I was first immersed in this story when my father handed me a newspaper cutout in 2003.

To finally have found a format to tell the story in my way that suits my creative expression, while celebrating the newspaper in print form, feels incredible. No words suffice to explain the the feeling of validation that this grant has given me and I cannot thank the Vancouver Heritage Foundation enough. The grant not only provides me with the funds needed to meet printing costs, it represents a turning point in my life. I am turning 60 in April 2022, and I have made a commitment to myself to step into (if all goes well) the last third of my life fully identifying as an ARTIST.

18.5 years since the first encounter with this historical case and it is time to tell the story I was chosen to tell.

The ghosts are happy.



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