Shaping non-fiction characters.

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What was initially to be a short volunteer research project into a Vancouver cold case to support a theory championed by a retired homicide detective, became, for me [and continues to be], a 17+ year personal journey “to restore to now dead people the fullness and degree of complication of their lives. To restore their humanness back to their lives.” 

“That’s our work. To restore humanity to the human being that went before that don’t speak for themselves… You have the possibility of willing them to life; you have the possibility of waking the dead. You have to liberate your characters to their full human dimension whether they are historical or not… The characters exist in a historical reality… that makes our work a kind of 3-D chess game… To make the characters real, you have to permit a darker side.” – Ken Burns

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Photos by Julian Bowers

The distinction between life and lifeless is a human construct. Every atom in this body existed before organic life emerged 4000 million years ago. Remember our childhood as minerals, as lava, as rocks? Rocks contain the potentiality to weave themselves into such stuff as this. We are the rocks dancing. Why do we look down on them with such a condescending air? It is they that are an immortal part of us.

JOHN SEED, Thinking Like a Mountain

Courage

My writing/art project (the one I have been working on for 16 and a half years) is unfolding in new, fast and lovely ways. The ghosts are happy and all is locking into place.

The creative process has been a windy, strange and incredible path through a dense and dark forest until now. All of a sudden that path is straightening, flattening, welcoming me to the field- a sunlit meadow of flowers.

I had a stress dream last night that I lost control of the project again. I woke up in a sweat and ultimately a sense of relief that I am the gatekeeper – secure, older, wiser – and the ghosts are safe with me.

I have made a commitment to them to not agree to any new collaboration that feels wrong. To enter into the sharing of the project with open heart and delight. To not agree to anything that does not align with my spirit and with the narrative I have been entrusted to tell.

Pulled an angel card just now and lo and behind- these two popped out.

Ut Pictura Poesis- the narrative potential of the drawing

I draw pictures.

I imagine storylines.

I imagine a narrative, a comic, a screenplay…

There is nothing quite as on target as the prose I write in my mind when on the bus- whilst staring out the window to deal with motion sickness, taking in the landscape. But alas, those musings instantly disappear as soon as I pull the cord for my stop.

The difference between what I imagine for the narrative and what I actually create is… indescribable. I am incapable of bringing it to life. Yet, the passion continues, the ideas simmer.

I draw pictures. I draw voraciously. I don’t care if it is shit. I breathe. I draw.

Yet, I want to write. To write well. To tell a proper story. I want to write then illustrate to it. But instead, I am stuck in the visual- I seem to always illustrate first. Then the writing tries to appear. But the result is an unsatisfactory mishmashed scrapbook.

Is drawing a type of writing? If writing on paper is mark making, and drawing is mark making- perhaps I am writing when I draw? Is the narrative I seek actually embedded in the image, unfolding if you follow the line?

It is the business of the dramatist to make good pictures, and whether it be done by the players or the painter, what matter, so they be effective, and the story worth telling; and how shall they be better told than as the author intended they should be represented?

… the eye is to behold, and the mind to be moved… ut pictura poesis. – John Eagle

One must not be too romantic about madness…

Feeling burned out today from my bread and butter work, I decided to ignore my entire to-do list this evening, decided to not to catch up on things, to ignore prepping for the rest of the week.

Instead– I got my hands dirty, dove back into my research into mental health treatment 1940’s to 60’s and finished a sketch.

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Electroshock therapy unit

This current exploration is a natural sequel to my ever-evolving project: Molly- a true crime analysis.  

Molly’s younger brother, Joseph, was admitted to the Provincial Mental Hospital, in Essondale BC, on November 25, 1948 at 1:15 PM.  He was institutionalized until his death in 1963.

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DEATH CERTIFICATE CLOSEUP 2

Joseph’s 270+ page file and my historical research into his treatment is being developed into a visual thesis of some sorts.  How it will all look in the end is a mystery.  I remain passionate and mesmerized and grateful for “being chosen” to tell their story.

 

 

One must not be too romantic about madness, or the madhouses in which the insane were confined.  There is, under the manias and grandiosities and fantasies and hallucinations, an immeasurably deep sadness about mental illness, a sadness that is reflected in the often grandiose but melancholy architecture of the old state hospitals. – Oliver Sacks

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Relaunch and new look: my online graphic novel “Molly, a True Crime Analysis, the third draft”

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Molly- a true crime analysis is my experimental graphic novel, originally workshopped online in weekly instalments between January 15, 2017 and January 13, 2018.  

I call the current online version the third draft.  

mollygraphicnovel.com

UPDATE: THE GRAPHIC NOVEL IS BEING RE-WORKED AND THEREFORE SET TO “PRIVATE” WITH RESTRICTED ACCESS

My work is based on extensive research, interviews and published accounts.  I use mainly primary and secondary sources in order to build the story.  I have attempted to stick to the facts in the text and avoid assumptions, yet draw conclusions from the circumstantial evidence.  Visual scenes have been created for the purposes of dramatization.  This is a work of creative non-fiction inspired by true facts, physical evidence and historical research.  In the end, this is my artistic interpretation and nothing more than that.  

SAMPLE CHAPTER:

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This chapter is enhanced when accompanied by:

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© Katarina Thorsen 2019

DISCLAIMER:

Readers of this publication agree that Katarina Thorsen will not be held responsible or liable for damages that may be alleged or resulting directly or indirectly from the reading of this publication.

Model: Jocelyn Louise

Tuesday November 6, 1947

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Jocelyn Louise as illustration source for Molly.

TUESDAY NOVEMBER 6, 1947

MOLLY, A GRAPHIC NOVEL– my now 15+ years passion project– continues at the drawing board and at the writing desk and in my heart, with new developments, insights and directions behind the scenes.  Some announcements in the new year.

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NOTE: this is a work of creative non-fiction inspired by true facts, evidence and events.  It is an artistic interpretation and no more than that.

© Katarina Thorsen 2018

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The New Year’s Drawing Marathon

On January 15, 2017, I launched the first chapter of the third draft of my experimental graphic novel: Molly- a true crime analysis

Birds have been a recurring theme throughout the work.  It is difficult to explain their symbolism fully, but to me they carry messages across space and time.  

I spent Dec 31, 2017-Jan 1, 2018 drawing birds for a particular image I wanted for Part 22 and in order to end and start the new year working on the book.  The drawing process was a joy but I was surprised at how loud my inner critic was, how sad I became, how I questioned the validity of the book, the point.  

I danced with the critic though, didn’t fight the darkness that welled up, and continued to put china marker to paper and wheatpaste to canvas until I felt done.

MOLLY- A TRUE CRIME ANALYSIS

This true crime/cold case/murder mystery art project has been part of my life since 2003, though I know I was born to write and illustrate it.

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CHECK OUT:

“The image of a dead bird in the snow is similar to the popular “Babe in the Woods” motif of children who are in their mortal sleep in the forest, and may have likewise been a call to empathy for the less fortunate.”

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30 strange chapters completed.

I am workshopping my true crime graphic novel online.

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30 strange chapters completed. I am working on the 31st today. Then 15 to go.

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I am sure it is all as confusing as a Twin Peaks episode!

The online workshopping method helps me get perspective.  Laying out ALL the information for editing it down and re-drawing for the eventual book draft.

The music helps me shape (choreograph) the chapter.

OUTLINE SO FAR:

BW: BABES IN THE WOOD

MO: MOLLY O’DWYER

KT: KATARINA THORSEN

PART TITLE   MUSIC

 

DEDICATION KT
FOREWORD  
1A

JAN 15, 2017

THE CRIME SKETCHBOOK BW BABES IN THE WOOD, 1941
1B THE HEADLINES BW DRAGNET THEME, 1953
2A WHY ME? KT VUD- UNDERWATER
2B

 

A CHILD IS BORN MO LULLABY FOR CAIN (SINEAD O’CONNOR)
3A THE DNA BW IT’S OH SO QUIET (BJORK)
3B NORAH MO MISERERE MEI, DEUS, 1630 (GREGORIO ALLEGRI)
4A LIPSTICK LIZ BW ‘ROUND MIDNIGHT, 1947 (THELONIUS MONK)
4B PIER 21, THE PASSENGER LIST MO THE LAST SHIP SAILS (STING)
5A THE CRIME SCENE, 1953 BW NATURE SOUNDS: THE ENCHANTED FOREST
5B TO ALBERTA, 1929 MO DIFFERENT TRAINS PART 1 (STEVE REICH)
6A PHYSICAL EVIDENCE, THE LIST BW SYCAMORE TREES (JIMMY SCOTT)
6B A DIALOGUE WITH MOLLY MO THE RITE OF SPRING (STRAVINSKY)
7A A FUR COAT BW CALEB’S SEDUCTION (MARK KORVEN)
7B THE BUTTON BW SOMEONE ELSE’S DREAM (LAURIE ANDERSON)
8A A CHILD’S SHOE BW TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD (OPENING TITLE)
8B ADOLESCENCE MO HUMMING CHORUS (MADAM BUTTERFLY, PUCCINI)
9A NATURE’S LAW MO DANNY BOY (SINEAD O’CONNOR)
9B AFTEREFFECTS MO DADDY’S LI’L GIRL (BIKINI KILL)
10A TARTAN BW RAGS TO RICHES, 1953 (TONY BENNETT)
10B JOSEPH MO EVERY SINGLE NIGHT (FIONA APPLE)
11A JOSEPH’S FILE MO THE BLUE FLAME, THE CATHERINE WHEEL (DAVID BYRNE)
11B MY LEAD BW MO

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MOLLY MALONE (SINEAD O’CONNOR)
12A THE ARCHIVES MO OBEDEAR (PURITY RING)
12B ANAM CARA MO OLD TIMES (THE OTHERS SOUNDTRACK)
13A PUTTING FLESH TO BONE BW SONATA FOR CELLO & PIANO IN F MINOR ENESCU (THE MUTATO MU)
13B RECONSTRUCTING MOLLY MO I AM WAITING (THE ROLLING STONES)
14A MOLLY WAS “OH SO PERFECT” MO MISS CELIE’S BLUES (MOLLY JOHNSON)
14B YOUNG ADULT MO AFTERNOON OF A FAUN (DEBUSSY)
15A FORENSIC TAPHONOMY BW DAYDREAMING (RADIOHEAD)
15B WOUNDS BW THE ELECTRICIAN (THE WALKER BROTHERS)

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Page from Part 15B- Wounds

Sometimes I feel brutally unsure, crawling.  Sometimes it all writes itself.

And, somehow– the double helix of the two timelines continues to twist around themselves.

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30 strange chapters completed.  23 parts for a total 46 chapters.  

23 pairs of chromosomes.

 

 

And I am either getting closer to the truth- my truth- or farther and farther away from it.

Who am I really writing and illustrating this for?

I remind myself that nothing is set in stone.

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Page from Part 15A- Forensic Taphonomy

Celebrating 95 pages with a vulnerability hangover…

I am workshopping my graphic novel through a weekly online serial.

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So far…

we have been witnessed a crime:

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Looked at the original headlines:

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I’ve introduced my involvement (more to come):

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And travelled to Ireland to get our first glimpse at the main character:

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Molly’s and The Babes in the Wood timeline are now starting to twist around each other.

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So I need to celebrate

I am 95 pages in— 95 pages in 4 weeks!  Or looking at it another way, 95 pages in 13.5 years.  Yes, I must celebrate this.  But instead, I am struck with creative insomnia!  A buzzing, busy brain.  Is it excitement to keep going?  Is it fear?  Is it a

Vulnerability Hangover?

Of course it is.  Holy shit.  I am putting it out there, doing it for me, for Molly, for my supporters, for storytelling.  Holy shit.  I am doing it.  And accurate to the way the creative process works and the inner critic whispers, I am struck with nervousness.  I have been struggling so long after so much life change to just live a day a time. And now here I am, planning 46 weeks of instalments.  Planning my life.  Professionally, creatively.  Thinking ahead… thinking past tomorrow…

I’m past patiently waitin’. I’m passionately
Smashin’ every expectation
Every action’s an act of creation!
I’m laughin’ in the face of casualties and sorrow
For the first time, I’m thinkin’ past tomorrow

  • – Lin Manuel Miranda

After years of 5 minute living, a way to get through the rollercoaster of life-

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I am sitting here with a full calendar and giant lovely to-do’s and I admit, I am a little bit scared.  But loving it.  Deep into it.  Experimenting.  And trusting Molly.

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THE FIRST 95 PAGES:

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Part 1A: The Crime

Part 1B: The Headlines, 1953

Part 2A: Why Me?

Part 2B: A Child is Born

What Lies Ahead?

Next week (Feb 12) we dive into the 1998 DNA test results.

On Feb 19, Molly’s mother is front and centre.

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© Katarina Thorsen 2017

The best things in life are free…

Sitting here, surrounded by drawings and notes and cold coffee in multiple cups… butterflies in the stomach…

I want to honor Molly, who reached out through space and time and chose me to tell her story and my muse, Jocelyn Louise, who has so generously lent herself to represent my vision of Molly—

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and to celebrate my decision to share the creative process of the new draft as a 23 part (2 sections per part) weekly serial online for FREE (Part 1 launches January 15, 2017 at 6:30 AM PT), I give you:

mollygraphicnovel.com

My weekly serial format serves as a means to workshop the graphic novel…

My Molly site mollygraphicnovel.com launches with Part 1A on Sunday.

The work is presented in an experimental form. I will simply allow the creative process to unfold. THIS WEEKLY SERIAL FORMAT serves as a means to workshop* the graphic novel.

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*Workshop production:

… a form of theatrical performance, in which a play or musical is staged in a modest form which does not include some aspects of a full production. For example, costumes, sets and musical accompaniment may be excluded, or may be included in a simpler form.One common purpose of a workshop production is to provide a preview staging of a new work in order to gauge audience and critical reaction. Following which, some parts of the work may be adjusted or rewritten before the work’s official premiere. – wikipedia

MOLLY, my true crime online graphic novel serial, launches in 1 month!

Look for Part 1A on January 15, 2017

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MOLLY- A TRUE CRIME ANALYSIS

at

mollygraphicnovel.com

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An analysis in 5-acts.

to dissolve the very boundaries between fact and fiction, life and art, memory and imagining.  The result would be a five-act narrative tragedy comprised of materials gathered from everything from journal, diary, memoir, novel, poem, play, to mission order, policy document, news report, popular song, G.I. anecdote, advertising slogan, and latrine graffito.

– Philip D. Beidler on John Clark Pratt’s Vietnam Voices

Circumstantial, physical and genealogical evidence converge in multiple timelines.

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Molly- a true crime analysis, a visual serial goes online January 15!

How do you escape from a convincing story?  After enough repetitions, the facts come to serve the story and not the other way around.  – Errol Morris

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I began working on this PASSION PROJECT in 2003 when I was a volunteer criminal profiler on the Babes in the Wood task force in Vancouver, Canada.  And I have been working on it ever since.

But I have come to a crossroads.

 Recall:

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That tap on the shoulder was a message.  I knew I needed to pay attention.  And I have been.

But hovering.  

Waiting.  

Feeling lost— thinking hoping the message was:

“Await the magic moment when a publisher responds, or that phone call comes from that lead down south…”

Sitting on the dock with lines in the water…

But no- I knew in my heart that my HOPE was actually blocking my ability to truly listen.

So I sat down with my main character the other day.

I asked Molly- what do you want from me?  

I raged at myself- walked the lagoon, again and again-

… sitting with the questions, still awaiting news from publishers, producers.

Awaiting the signal to restart the manuscript- its parts all laid out and ready.  Yet- feeling a nagging churning in my heart and gut that this is not how I naturally work.

Then- AH HA!  

Molly pushed me off the dock into the water.  

I AWOKE from my stupor!

Molly- who was an ACTUAL LIVING BREATHING HUMAN between 1924-1947, who reached out across time and space and grabbed my heart, asking me to tell her story, whose life I have pieced together from research, who seems to guide the show if I am willing to let go of what I thought it should look like- has made it so clear to me that—

 I need to start telling the story in my way.

AND NOW.

It wasn’t the right time before.  I have uncovered new things.  

But it is also no longer OK to wait.

Narratives are ubiquitous.  They are part of the way people see the world, part of the way people think.  All of us.  Myself included.  Without them we would be overwhelmed, with undigested, raw facts.  But that doesn’t mean that all narratives are created equal.  There is fiction, and there is nonfiction.  And one of the differences between fiction and fact is that a fictional character is controlled by its creator.  It has no reality off the page…  It is easy to confuse a search for revealing plot details with a search for evidence.  But there is a difference.  In one case, we are wandering through a landscape of words.  In the other, we are in the physical world. – Errol Morris

And so, me, the creator am controlled by the non-fiction character, Molly.

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Molly- a true crime analysis visual weekly serial

goes online January 15, 2017!

23 sections (two parts per section) released over 45 weeks.  

January 15-November 5, 2017

The work is presented in an experimental graphic novel form.

… a crime analysis to determine the general characteristics of the most likely suspect for the crime. – Henry Lee, Crime Scene Investigation (1994)

Vancouver’s ultimate cold case…

– Eve Lazarus, author of Cold Case Vancouver: the city’s most baffling unsolved murders

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Katarina Thorsen’s work Molly weaves empirical discovery and her own imagination. While many people know of the tragic deaths of the two children from the Babes in the Wood case, Thorsen introduces another tragic death in Vancouver history near the same time, that of a young woman named Molly, whose demise was a brief and lurid headline back in the day. It is a story about history and mystery, and how these two tragic stories intersect- or don’t- as the case may be.

–  Pamela Post, journalist, 2015

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THIS IS A WORK IN PROGRESS AND I WILL INCLUDE YOU IN MY JOURNEY.

AS MY MANUSCRIPT UNFOLDS, I WILL SHARE THE PROCESS WEEK TO WEEK STARTING WITH WEBSITE LAUNCH JANUARY 15, 2017 

THE 5-ACT SERIAL WILL INCLUDE TEXT, PHYSICAL EVIDENCE, PRIMARY AND SECONDARY SOURCES, ILLUSTRATIONS, PHOTOGRAPHS, VIDEO AND AUDIO.  (AND MAGIC)

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It will unfold as it should in the only way I know how.  It will be workshopped, if you will.

“History is so subjective. The teller of it determines it. – Lin Manuel Miranda

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“Don’t figure it out. Create it.” – Maryam Hasnaa

Related:

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Around 3 am… I felt a tap on my shoulder.

Around 3 am yesterday morning (November 19) I woke up because I felt a tap on my shoulder.

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More like a double jab.

On my right shoulder.

It felt so real—

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I just knew it was a message regarding Molly but it didn’t even feel like her- felt like a male presence.

Like he was telling me to PAY ATTENTION.

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And all day  yesterday I was thinking about it- knowing that if I just let go of seeking the answer, the answer would come.

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I was prepping info last night to bring along to a meeting today about the Babes in the Wood and I felt a chill as I wrote down Molly’s father‘s birthday- November 19 (1891).

And more and more clues have unfolded this weekend.  I am on my 13th year on this project.  I keep stitching the information together.  Molly, I am listening.

PAYING ATTENTION.

INDEED.

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The life of the dead is placed in the memory of the living.  – Marcus Tullius Cicero

Digging deeper, the secrets become aviatic.

 

Working on Molly, and I remain fascinated that I find it easier to dig deeper into the story by using the image of birds.  

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Somehow, the layers that obscure the truth are scraped away a little easier.  

Are the birds metaphors?  My guides?

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The Jackdaw as metaphor for Molly and her Irish family

I robbed your grave.  I revealed you.  I showed you in shameful moments.  I learned things about you.  Everything I learned made me love you more dearly.  I’ll learn more.  I’ll follow your tracks and invade your hidden time.  I’ll uncover your lies.  I’ll rewrite history and revise my judgment as your old secrets explode.  I will justify it all in the name of the obsessive life you gave me.

– James Ellroy, My Dark Places

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Digging down deeper, the secrets become aviatic.

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In many myths and legends, birds link the human world to the divine or supernatural realms that lie beyond ordinary experience... They are often associated with the journey of the human soul after death. [source]

 

I am obsessing about Molly’s wandering soul.

I am obsessing about Molly‘s wandering soul.

I have written before that Molly somehow chose me to tell her story.  Eve Lazarus refers to it as a tap on the shoulder– and Molly tapped me on the shoulder on Level 5 at the Vancouver Public Library in late 2003 as I was searching through microfiches.  I swear there was a breath, a startle, a moment that straightened my back, made me look around.

No one else seemed to notice anything.

The Celtic understanding did not set limitations of space or time on the soul. There is no cage for the soul. The soul is a divine light that flows into you and into your Other. – Charles McManus

2003… It’s now 2016.  Oh my God.  Molly.  Her soul encourages.  Her soul awaits.  Her soul wanders.   Wonders.  And I storyboard.

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So what now?  Stay on track.  Experiment.

Sometimes it’s necessary to go a long distance out of the way in order to come back a short distance correctly. – Edward F. Albee

I spent hours last night re-organizing massive amounts of research.  My brother, Fred Thorsen, assures me I am up to the task- Just tell the story, he reassures.

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First line… let’s go.

Recall: 

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I sit now surrounded by my manuscripts, references, inspiration and pressing fingertips to keys and (re)typing.  (Re)COMMITMENT!  This version will be from the pelvis.  First chakra shit.

Yesterday, I posted:

Start again. Put China markers and socks and threaded needles down. Write, bitch, write.

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There is no beginning.  I’ve tried to invent one but it was a lie and I don’t want to be a liar.  This story will end where it began, in the middle.  A triangle or a circle.  A closed loop with three points. – Janna Levin, The Madman Dreams of Turing Machines

My dear friend, Matthew Roy, who is on the third edit (mind-blowing, beautiful edits) of his EXTRAORDINARY novel (a work of speculative fiction)- sent me a tip:

Set a timer for one hour. Start writing. When you get stuck look at timer. Sit with it. Then write some more. Repeat until timer rings.

The first draft is just you telling yourself the story. – Terry Pratchett

My brother, Fredrik Thorsen, writer/filmmaker, uses the following rule: AATC. Apply ass to chair.  Here I am, at the kitchen table, in my bathrobe, in need of a shower, bottomless coffee, Sunday early aft, ready to (re)start.

And to start, my mind goes to the first line.  I wonder what the final-first will be in the end.  I.e. In the end, how will my book have started?

Edna Buchanan covered the murder for the Herald– there are policeman in Miami who say it wouldn’t be a murder without her- and her story began with what [is still regarded] as the classic Edna lead: “Gary Robinson died hungry.”  – Calvin Trillin Covering the Cops- the world of Miami’s top crime reporter, The New Yorker, February 17, 1986

A SAMPLING OF FIRST LINES: pulled randomly from my personal library

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The village of Holcomb stands on the high wheat plains of western Kansas, a lonesome area that other Kansans call “out there.” – Truman Capote, In Cold Blood

Here is the house. – Toni Morrison, The Bluest Eye

I, TIBERIUS CLAUDIUS DRUSUS NERO GERMANICUS This-that-and-the-other (for I shall not trouble you yet with my titles) who was once, and not so long ago either, known to my friends and relatives and associates as “Claudius the Idiot”, or “That Claudius”, of “Claudius the Stammerer”, or “Clau-Clau-Claudius” or best as “Poor Uncle Claudius”, [A.D. 41] am now about to write this strange history of my life; starting from my earliest childhood and continuing year by year until I reach the fateful point of change where, some eight years ago, the age of fifty-one, I suddenly found myself caught in what I may call the “golden predicament” from which I have never since become disentangled. – Robert Graves, I, Claudius

Some kids found her. James Ellroy, My Dark Places– an L.A. crime memoir

June 17, 1972. – Carl Bernstein, Bob Woodward, All the President’s Men

Going to Ford’s Theatre to watch the play is like going to Hooters for the food. – Sarah Vowell, Assassination Vacation

“Home again!” Nancy Drew spoke as she stopped her sport maroon roadster before the walk of her own house. – Carolyn Keene, Nancy Drew Mystery Stories- Nancy’s Mysterious Letter

How do people get to this Clandestine Archipelago? – Alexander Solzhenitsyn, The Gulag Archipelago

The teens are the most colorful years of life. – Harold Shyrock, M.A., M.D., On Becoming a Woman

My father and mother should have stayed in New York where they met and married and where I was born. – Frank McCourt, Angela’s Ashes

The first thing I remember is being under something. – Charles Bukowski, Ham on Rye

It must have been a Thursday night when I met her for the first time- at the dance hall. – Henry Miller, Sexus- the Rosy Crucifixion I

Fat Curt is on the corner. – David Simon, The Corner- a year in the life of an inner-city neighborhood

In early times, say the Icelandic chronicles, men from the Western Islands came to live in this country, and when they departed, left behind them crosses, bells, and other objects used in the practice of sorcery. – Haldor Laxness, Independent People

Not very far from Upton-on-Severn- between it, in fact, and the Malvern Hills- stands the country seat of the Gordons of Bramley; well-timbered, well-cottaged, well-fenced and well-watered, having, in the latter respect, a stream that forks in exactly the right position to feed two large lakes in the grounds. – Radclyffe Hall, The Well of Loneliness

When my mother was angry with me, which was often, she said, ‘The Devil led us to the wrong crib.’ – Jeanette Winterson, Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal?

Out of the gravel there are peonies growing. – Margaret Atwood, Alias Grace

Dear Anyone Who Find This, Do not blame the drugs. – Lynda Barry, Cruddy


Ah, inspired by authors I am happy to write that I am (re)writing and transcribing- in a new more personal approach to the project.

After much discussion and feedback, the more personal is key.

E.g. A review of Deborah Baker’s The ConvertThe story is so engrossing it’s too bad the writing has a disorienting quality. There’s a stiffness, an academic detachment, about the history and cultural criticism authored by Baker. On the flip side, Jameelah’s letters are swift, gossipy, confessional. If only the book contained more of those.  SOURCE

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This post is dedicated to my writing companion Patti Henderson.  We have committed to meeting regularly for check ins, encouragement, inspiration, brainstorming, writing.  Our latest meet up was a delicious afternoon at Finch’s in Strathcona.

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Finch’s a 501 East Georgia

The meetups, even though sometimes we don’t actually write and type, are essential- for we bring our work is with us, we physically hold it, stroke it, organize it, share it, TALK ABOUT IT!  And move forward.

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Happiest of birthdays to my sweet soul sister who has seen me through some of my darkest times, who lifts me beyond measure, who fiercely demands to live life to its fullest, who embodies the creative spirit, who laughs loudly, speaks her mind, the ultimate aunt to my children, my Dad’s walking companion, an archetypal storyteller, a heron, my dear comrade. Love you, Patti

We write every day, we fight every day, we think and scheme and dream a little dream every day. Manuscripts pile up in the kitchen sink, run-on sentences dangle around our necks. We plant purple prose in our gardens and snip the adverbs only to thread them in our hair. We write with no guarantees, no certainties, no promises of what might come and we do it anyway. This is who we are. ― Tahereh Mafi

CHECK OUT:

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Rejection letter from publisher? Despair? No- liberation.

I have been awaiting word from a significant publisher who has been considering my passion project- Molly, a true crime analysis.

The book is not finished.  I am re-writing the manuscript, and still drawing- but thanks to my agent, Peter Breeze, we have been creating a buzz and were quite elated to be contacted earlier this year by this one particular publisher.  Of course, let’s be honest- the dream [the goal, the plan!] is to get an advance.

Writing a book is a strange job.  “Here you go,” a publisher says at the outset, handing you a salary of sorts, and a deadline, “We’ll see you in two years.” – Patricia Pearson

Yesterday I received their response via Peter:

Dear Peter,

My apologies that it’s taken me several more weeks to get back to you about this project since you provided me with the exciting new info from Katarina. We’ve had so many people out on vacation in July and August that our editorial group meeting was cancelled several weeks in a row.

I finally got a chance to give my group a full second pitch of the project (after my first one in early May). Everyone still adored Katarina’s artwork and people were still intrigued by the story. While I do think that the new info helped my pitch, ultimately my group decided that the project just isn’t right for our list. Katarina’s project is fascinating, but the feedback I got was that even though it investigates a mystery, Katarina has essentially solved the case [well- that remains to be seen] and answered the one question that needs to be answered. Though everyone loved the journey Katarina takes the reader through, they felt that the book would have a tough time making a splash in the hyper-competitive true crime market. We discussed positioning it in a number of different ways, and even as more of an art book rather than a true crime book, but I’m sorry to say that I did not get the green light to move forward with it.

I am still passionate about Katarina’s project and was hoping that with the gap in time between my first pitch of the project and my second pitch, I could adequately reposition it with my group so they’d be on board. So I’m very disappointed to have to pass on the project. I really appreciate how patient you’ve been with me (especially during the spring of craziness), and how much Katarina has put into this work. I have no doubt that you’ll place this book with another publisher who can really get behind it and give it the love it deserves. I hope to see this on shelves one day and to buy myself a copy.

Thanks again for the opportunity to dive into this amazing world.

All the best,

P.

But am I upset?  Hell no!  AND I AM NOT JUST WRITING THAT TO BE POSITIVE!  SERIOUSLY!  I MEAN SERIOUSLY!

I mean- WOW- LET’S LOOK AT THIS A LITTLE CLOSER— the work has been considered!  BY A SIGNIFICANT PUBLISHER.  It takes balls to put yourself out there and- tooting my own horn here- I’ve been putting myself out there for years.  Rejection after rejection, failure after failure- and now at my age– I see that the process is GLORIOUS.  Because it’s not about being accepted- it’s about the process.

I am feeling FREE again to take Molly in new directions.  Work on its possibilities.  Fold myself into the story more.  I still have investigation to do and am building an extraordinary network of women who support the project and care deeply about the case.  So many of you ask, how long till it is done?  I don’t know!  It is not for me to answer.  Only Molly knows.

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Why now—after so many years? “What could I tell them?” he said. “Just that I’m the slowest damn, most tiresomely methodical dot-the-‘i’s-and-cross-the-‘t’s investigator they’ll ever meet.” – Andy Rosenzweig, The New Yorker

And so the investigation continues.  The work continues.  The process still unfolds and therein lies the success, the bliss— the point.  

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The journey is the destination. – Dan Eldon

Related:

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That is a step on which… #creativeprocess

I was working on my Molly project today— contemplating a slightly new format, to reconstruct the prologue.  The idea came out of the first weekly mini writer’s retreat that I started last Monday with my soul-sister, Patti Henderson:

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Patti encouraged me to attack the material in a new way.

I love how collaborative dialogue can push, pull, inspire.  Afterwards, perseverating on the ideas that were brought up, the magic begins as one idea flows into the next, and the creative process leads as opposed to being led.  The dots connect and coincidences become more than coincidences…

For example,

I was on the ferry headed to a wedding on Friday when suddenly, in my mind’s eye, I saw the prologue unfold in a series on visuals with a particular focus on the character’s eyes.  We see the children see…

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I wrote some notes and continued to mind map when I got home today.

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I put an episode of Charlie Rose on in the background…

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I heard Kenneth Branagh quote a moment in Macbeth… That is a step. On which I must fall down, or else o’erleap… He emphasized and mused on the word o’oerleap and how in the context it meant the choice of murder.  I was intrigued by the word, by his take on it and how it worked well in the context of Molly.  So I looked further and searched for the moment it appears in the play:

MACBETH [Aside]
The Prince of Cumberland! That is a step
On which I must fall down, or else o’erleap,
For in my way it lies. Stars, hide your fires;
Let not light see my black and deep desires:
The eye wink at the hand; yet let that be,
Which the eye fears, when it is done, to see. (1.4.55-60)

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Which the eye fears, when it is done, to see… how wonderful!  By seeking more on o’erleap, I find a quote related to my new vision for the prologue.  Coincidence?

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And so, that is a step on which… I build.

It is important now for me to honor this call for retreat. #creativeprocess

I sense it is time to really retreat in between work schedules and ensure cave time to focus on my passion project: Molly, a true crime analysis.  Seek solitude, writes Delacroix.  I hear you.  I am in a fantastic place regarding the project- she feels ripe, ready, eager.  Through a tear in the fabric of time and space, Molly, long dead, guides, revealing more and more.  It astounds and humbles me.

“Murder, though it hath no tongue, will speak with most miraculous organ.”
— Shakespeare, “Hamlet”

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Creative process includes allowing for gestation, gathering resources, paying the rent.  But it also requires intense dedication.  And obedience.  So it is important now for me to honor this new call for retreat.

We need quiet time to figure things out, to emerge with new discoveries, to unearth original answers. – Ester Buchholz

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And having allowed the project to gather even more evidence of late, it seems very much like gathering supplies in order to build.  To sculpt.

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Writing non-fiction is more like sculpture, a matter of shaping the research into the finished thing. – Joan Didion

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Check out:

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Twyla Tharp, chinamarker on newsprint

Creativity is a habit, and the best creativity is a result of good work habits. That’s it in a nutshell. ― Twyla Tharp, The Creative Habit: Learn It and Use It for Life

The objects are the context from which I draw clues.

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What happens when a case is very old, when much of its physical evidence is deteriorated or destroyed, and its main players long deceased?  How do we investigate?

For me it is all about the historical context.

When I work on Molly, I step into the 1940’s through books, research, primary sources.  And I do it through collecting vintage items.

The objects are the context from which I draw clues.

Now how I find these objects is a magical process.  Yes, I visit my favorite places like Salmagundi West in Gastown or Village Antique Mall in Fort Langley, but the objects themselves seem to choose me.

Can that be?

Do they hold clues?

Are they trying to tell me something?

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Photos by Julian Bowers

The distinction between life and lifeless is a human construct. Every atom in this body existed before organic life emerged 4000 million years ago. Remember our childhood as minerals, as lava, as rocks? Rocks contain the potentiality to weave themselves into such stuff as this. We are the rocks dancing. Why do we look down on them with such a condescending air? It is they that are an immortal part of us.

JOHN SEED, Thinking Like a Mountain

Special sale: Dead Bird Collection- embroidered drawings

I am a BIG BIG fan of symbology, imagery and metaphor.  I feed on it like some kind of voracious vampire.  

As I was collecting a few books from my personal library to donate to our local community mini library, I pulled out an old book I had forgotten about.  


Oh, how I love finding what I need in my personal library!  I guess the whole exercise in finding books to donate was actually Universe letting me know I was supposed to find this book today.  Sorry!  I am not donating this one!  It goes straight into my tote bag for coffee shop reading.

The imagery Shakespeare instinctively uses is thus a revelation, largely unconscious, given at a moment of heightened feeling, of the furniture of his mind, the channels of his thoughts, the qualities of things, the objects and incidents he observes and remembers, and perhaps most significant of all, those which he does not observe or remember. -Caroline Spurgeon

Symbols and metaphors play a huge part in my creative process.   For example,  in my current project, Molly- a true crime analysis, birds (dead birds, bird skulls and live birds as well as forest animals and insects) act as messengers and symbols of the main character’s quest for liberation and redemption.

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In dreams, dead birds can symbolize a loss of freedom. Various cultures view birds either as a way the soul is carried to heaven, or, in the case of vultures, ravens and crows, as a symbol of death. [source]

And of late, those of you that know me, know I have been obsessively embroidering my drawings.


Why embroidered drawings?

I have mentioned this in previous posts that certain drawings in Molly (in particular chapter headings) are embroidered as a means to reflect the act of connecting the dots and weaving together timelines, evidence and research.  The stitches are footsteps on a map.  It reflects deep thought and the passage of time.  It is historical.  Traditional.  Sacred.  It is about strengthening the fragile.  It fascinates me that a medium so cheap and easily torn such as newsprint becomes strong and hardy when layered and sewn together.  It can be manipulated and folded, handled, and only gains a lovelier patina.   There is something magical in that.

The importance of the vintage photograph as creative resource.

 

There is no end to the inspiration I get from looking at vintage photographs- through immersion comes awakened imagination.

The central characters in my graphic novel are real people but as I am doing an artistic interpretation of real events, I revel in the freedom to flesh out the central characters using old photos as a starting point.

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There is no harm in imposing appearance and character on the brothers and sisters, so long as we regard this as a mere device for solidifying Will’s physical background.  We are entitled to visualize him as a boy eating, singing and sleeping in the house on Henley Street, and its convenient to have him surrounded by something thicker than swathes of ectoplasm with name-tags.

– Anthony Burgess, Shakespeare

A great source for vintage photos in Vancouver BC is Salmagundi West

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Molly- A Graphic Novel Trailer

Editor, cinematography: Julian Bowers

Writer, researcher, illustrator: Katarina Thorsen

    

NOTE: All photographs in my graphic novel research collection were purchased at a variety of places such as on ETSY, at Salmagundi West, Fort Langley Antique Mall, etc. They are all dated 1947 or earlier.

What is public domain?

Photographs taken in Canada in 1949 and earlier by a photographer or a corporation, as these lapsed into the public domain prior to Canadian copyright changes in 1998.

Corporate records and photographs created in Canada more than 50 years old.

SOURCE

Also check out: Canadian Public Domain Flowchart

The boarding pass lies within the double helix…

I had a bit of a silly dream last night.

I write, silly because, unlike the dream, I usually get to the airport three hours ahead of time for a domestic flight.  I am already fretting about the upcoming 6:30 AM flight on June 19 when I head back to Toronto for more creative community engagement projects.

In the dream, I arrive at the gate (the plane is boarding in 45 minutes) to get on a British Airways flight with son and his girlfriend.  I look down and I have NO luggage, no ticket, no passport, no boarding pass, no wallet, nothing.  I left them all at home.  I panic knowing there is not enough time- I will miss the plane.  I hitchhike back “home” with an elderly couple who drive me to some kind of cabin retreat place in the woods and are slowing me down by stopping at places I am not connected to, writing down names I don’t recognize into hotel ledgers and putting the notes into the car glove compartment.  I feel a bit helpless and frantic as I sit in the back seat, in the middle, leaning forward.

Having had a few hours to digest it… I wonder if the dream isn’t related to my research on my passion project, Molly- a true crime analysis.  I don’t have enough clout, ID, info, documents quite yet to get through that gate!  No boarding pass yet!

I feel closer than ever this week though.  There have been some exciting developments regarding DNA.  And though I won’t share details here, let’s just say, the case I write about all comes down to identity and the answers will only be proven through DNA analysis.  Stay tuned!!!


“DNA is God’s signature… never a forgery, and his checks don’t bounce.” Eddy Joe Lloyd, exonoree, After Innocence (2005)

I do love DNA!  The very STUFF of LIFE!  Some of my fondest memories at UBC in Biological Sciences was mapping a fruit fly’s genome.  I recall the beautiful starfish like chromosome.

Drosophila (2016), china marker (Katarina Thorsen)

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The cold case I am researching centres around the unidentified children found in Stanley Park in 1953.  Their DNA profiles were completed in 1998 by Dr. David Sweet, forensic odontologist.  The goal is to identify their mother through DNA comparisons.

And through some wonderful unfoldings this week, I am a few steps closer, but no boarding pass yet!


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[source]

A DNA molecule consists of two strands that wind around each other like a twisted ladder.  Ah, the DOUBLE HELIX!

The term double helix refers to the structure formed by double-stranded molecules of nucleic acids such as DNA. The double helical structure of a nucleic acid complex arises as a consequence of its secondary structure, and is a fundamental component in determining its tertiary structure. [source]

No discussion about DNA is complete without the mention of one of my heroes, Rosalind Franklin:

“Her soul shall be bound in the bundle of life.” – Inscription on Rosalind Franklin’s tombstone

My imagery of late- embroidered drawings- tries to  recreate that binding, that layering, the bundling, the need to look closer and closer, to pry away and lift and investigate to get closer to the answer.  Closer to the boarding pass.