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.
Regarding my passion project Molly- a true crime analysis: 2003-2016 was all about researching, drawing, accumulating, writing, collecting. 2017 was all about creating an online weekly draft, telling the story with images, words and music in whatever way it unfolded, sharing it openly, publicly. 2018 has been all about allowing others in, and letting go of control, and hiding the project and process away so that those others could take a run at it. The outcome of all this is still unknown. I admit it feels odd and strange.
But what has been brewing inside me is another version of the story– one that only I know how to tell. And I keep pacing about it. It’s not that I don’t know what to do. It’s that I KNOW what I am supposed to do and it somehow scares the shit out of me.
2019– I am ready.
Keeping a “don’t know mind” is important during this time as you may be somewhat confused and in a state of not knowing. Let spirit and your inner truth, wisdom and intuition sort it for you. Let go of any attachment to how it is supposed to look, who should be in the picture and how it needs to unfold.
There is freedom in trusting that everything will land where it should so take some time and enjoy your life, enjoy your community, enjoy the outdoors and enjoy your unique talents and creativity. Worry and obsession about whether or not you are “doing it right” will only rob you of your sleep. Let the energy of TRUTH assimilate into your being without any effort or hyper-vigilance. The word of the week is TRUST.
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.
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.
Come back to me, Molly. It’s been a strange time- hiding you from the world in order to explore new ways of telling your story. I’m not sure I like this anymore.
You chose me. Remember? At the library? 15 years ago. As your spirit wandered restlessly on the viaduct, you passed through me with a surprised breath and your soul snagged on mine. Tell my story, you whispered.
And for 15 years, you and I have explored so many ways to tell it. But of late, I feel like I’ve lost you. I miss the unpeeling of the onion, the uncovering of truths, teasing out the knots to reveal the thread, the connections. Your slow reveals.
I miss the smell of old newsprint, the texture of old flannel, the moss on the forest floor.
I miss you walking on Pender, you at the end of my lane, you sitting in my living room.
Have I let you down? Did I fail to trust that you are guiding? Have you met my mom and dad? Are you safe?
Come back to me, Molly. Let’s start again. From the beginning. I have paper and pen in hand. Tell me what’s next.
I am so used to sharing my creative process openly– and now I find myself in a new state of being, where in order to discuss and develop the project further, I have to stop sharing it.
This is all exciting and unreal– so why do I feel anxious? It is weird. Unfamiliar.
A soul reached out and I was chosen to tell her story… but…
When public goes private, do I lose her?
What a strange feeling this is.
Anxiety is potentially a huge by-product of the energy this month as we try to navigate through all of what is coming our way. It is much like a run-away train. We will simply need to trust that the tracks we put down will hold, and the train will end up settling in the right place.
In the dream, I haven’t been home to visit my parents for four years. In the dream, they are still living at the house on Braemar (the one we moved into in 1977, the one before they downsized in 2004). In the dream, they are both as sick as they were before they died. My dad after his stroke, unwinding with bladder cancer. My mom shrinking from pancreatic cancer. I haven’t been home for 4 years and the realization happens as I am sitting in my car (which I don’t have anymore). In the dream, I choke on panic and try to open the car door, but it so heavy as if pushing against water. I finally get out and start running up Lonsdale… but it is like wading through mud and I am screaming at the top of my lungs but there is no sound. I keep calculating in my head obsessively- it’s been 9 years and 4 months since mom passed away. It’s been 5 years and 4 months since Dad died. It’s been 15 years since we moved from the Sunshine Coast… I keep lining up all the pets that have passed, calculating, calculating. The crushing panic of not having visited mom and dad is drowning me…
I woke soaked in sweat.
I sit here now at the kitchen table…
… staring at a package of letters.
I received the package in Dec 2013.
The first letter written 50 years ago this year:
And I have managed to only get through one since receiving them. For though the letters are likely optimistic, I know my mother’s pain. And I am preparing, now that it is 9 years and 4 months since mom passed away. It’s been 5 years and 4 months since Dad died. It’s been 15 years since we moved from the Sunshine Coast… 50 years since we first moved here from Sweden, 40 years since we came back… preparing to finally to process my grief about mom by translating those letters. My relationship with my mom was extraordinary and complicated.
As I start to work through the pile at last, I feel the (re)connection to my heritage. The THOUGHTS and MEMORIES contained in those letters, in my DNA, are now ready to surface.
The other day I found a photo in the big family mish-mash photo box. I don’t recall ever seeing it before. My mom and dad look happy and at peace.
What about the dream? In reality, I did caregive for mom and dad as best as I could. In reality, I saw them almost every day. They were my partners in crime on the Molly project, which is entering it’s 15th year and which is entering a new exciting phase.
Maybe the dream was some kind of cleansing.
A gift from mom and dad to let me know they are OK, and that I am OK, and that I am free now to flow with the current. I made it.
I was joined by Jocelyn Louise (who portrays Molly) and stylist Jay Fisher…
… and my daughter Anna Thorsen who took the main shots (to be shared in the book).
Here are some moments I captured. The focus for me was to emulate Molly’s restless travels.
Where dips the rocky highland Of Sleuth Wood in the lake, There lies a leafy island Where flapping herons wake The drowsy water-rats; There we’ve hid our faery vats, Full of berries And of reddest stolen cherries. Come away, O human child! To the waters and the wild With a faery, hand in hand, For the world’s morefull of weeping than you can understand.
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.
“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.”
ON HOLD FOR SALE: Excellent condition tattoo kit includes 3 tattoo machines (one unused) and power source and foot pedals (one unused), and all related supplies with lots of needles as well as books! See content photos below.
I am workshopping my graphic novel through a weekly online serial.
we have been witnessed a crime:
Looked at the original headlines:
I’ve introduced my involvement (more to come):
And travelled to Ireland to get our first glimpse at the main character:
Molly’s and The Babes in the Wood timeline are now starting to twist around each other.
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
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-
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.
I’ve been chatting, speaking, blabbing, vomiting words with friends and family about it, at the dinner table, over the phone, even on the radio—
Check out my INTERVIEW about Molly- a true crime analysis from January 20, 2017 Radio Interview on ESSENCEtial Conversations CJSF 90.1 FM with hosts Rebecca Mears (catchingfire.ca) and Lucca Hallex (powersourcerer.com):
Somehow, I have NO PROBLEM chatting away here on this blog, sharing verbosity without fear—
And I have no problem, indeed it is my mission, encouraging others to speak as I capture dialogue of participants when I mind map and co-faciliate- I want to make it safe for you to speak freely—
Then why- when I speak out loud, sharing my passion, does a voice inside my head try to shushme? Why does this voice tell me I am talking too much? Why is it telling me to not take up airspace, to not waste people’s time? Who is that voice? Why is it asking me to be apologetic? Is it still that teen that wanders around aimlessly in my brain?
But, on this weekend, of all weekends, as millions of women (and supporters) MARCHED- why would I listen to that voice? What events in my past have trained me to listen to that voice at all?
Instead of marching Saturday morning here in Vancouver, I was busy finalizing my latest section of Molly. I knew that for me, working on Molly was the “march” I personally needed to do for myself- to fulfill this commitment I have made.
So shush, wandering teen, you shush. For I need to SPEAK FREELY. Without restraint, constraint. I deserve it.
“Continue to embrace the things that make you unique even if it makes others uncomfortable. You are enough. And whenever you’re feeling doubt, whenever you want to give up, you must always remember to choose freedom over fear.” – Janelle Monae at Women’s March on Washington, January 20, 2017.
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—
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:
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.
… 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
… 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.
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
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.
That tap on the shoulder was a message. I knew I needed to pay attention. And I have been.
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.
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.
Molly- a true crime analysisvisual 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)
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
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)
Working on Molly, and I remain fascinated that I find it easier to dig deeper into the story by using the image of birds.
Somehow, the layers that obscure the truth are scraped away a little easier.
Are the birds metaphors? My guides?
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
Digging down deeper, the secrets become aviatic.
In many myths and legends, birds link the human world to the divine or supernaturalrealms that lie beyond ordinary experience... They are often associated with the journey of the human soul after death. [source]
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.
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.
I am the cygnet to this pale faint swan, Who chants a doleful hymn to his own death, And from the organ-pipe of frailty sings His soul and body to their lasting rest. – Shakespeare (King John 5.7.24-7)
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:
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,
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.
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.
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:
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…
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…
I wrote some notes and continued to mind map when I got home today.
I put an episode of Charlie Rose on in the background…
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)
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?
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”
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
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.
Writing non-fiction is more like sculpture, a matter of shaping the research into the finished thing. – Joan Didion
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
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?
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.