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.
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)
My passion project, Molly- a true crime analysis, centres around a 63 year old Vancouver cold case.
On January 15, 1953, the skeletal remains of two children were found in the forest of Stanley Park in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. The victims became known as the Babes in the Wood. The physical evidence indicated that the children were killed using a hatchet and confidently pointed to the involvement of a woman, likely the children’s mother. Unsolved for over 63 years, the double homicide still haunts the city and fuels the imaginations of Vancouverites. Several theories have been explored and many leads and tips have been followed; yet the identities of the two victims remain unknown.
Molly- a true crime analysisillustrates my research into this heartbreaking mystery.
My involvement initially began as a volunteer researcher on the Babes in the Wood task force from 2003 to 2004.
This passion project- an illustrated book- is as much about the PROCESS and my deep involvement as it is about the cold case and the ultimate “end” product. And yes- that process. The creative process is incredibly magical and rewarding. The project is directing itself in a sense, and I am following and trusting.
The book will include text (facts and interpretation), illustrations (including magic realism), photographs, primary sources, physical evidence, circumstantial evidence and artifacts.
I am currently reworking the text and illustrating. I am experimenting with embroidered drawings.
Why embroidered drawings?
Certain drawings (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 skeletal remains were found covered in layers of fallen leaves and forest growth and decay. I am currently experimenting with layering of embroidery and incorporating text continues to simulate forensic taphonomy and the layering of forest vegetation over time.
Forensic taphonomy is concerned with the study of the decomposition of human remains, particularly in the context of burial sites.
… And when they were dead
The robins so red
Brought strawberry leaves
And over them spread;
And all the day long,
The green branches among,
They’d prettily whistle
And this was their song-
‘Poor babes in the wood!
Sweet babes in the wood!
Oh the sad fate of
The babes in the wood!’
“The Babes in the Wood,” Anonymous (ca 1595). Public domain.
I have been on a bit of blog-haitus of late. Just experienced an amazing pull back into the past as a dear friend spent 9 days here visiting from Sweden. We dove deep. Real deep. Drenched in Swedish. Endless necessary exhilarating conversation.
Fully open and torn open- finding old wounds long hidden- releasing them.
Reflecting on all the milestones achieved. All the losses experienced.
Understanding that I had to lose SO MUCH and grow through the loss in order to be fully my obligation-free artist self and to be present for what lies ahead.
Everything has fallen away and I am left standing, realizing I can take any direction now. Any direction.
Holy shit- I could panic. I could freak out. But really- what this nakedness is… is FREEDOM.
I have no money, no resources, no hopes. I am the happiest man alive. – Henry Miller
Sure, I have been doing some outreach. I have been weighing the options. I send out my CV and build arts-based programming opportunities in the community, yet all the while I maintain focus on my key passion-project: Molly.
Daring to step into my successful self/ my future me/ my abundant me, I created a mock cover to maintain the momentum.
Start at the end.
Act as if. IT IS TIME
My friend, writer Matthew Roy, put it best (regarding the core emotion of the book):
There is so much desperation in the story. Molly’s. Yours. Clocks literally ticking as time runs out for the truth.
The following autopsy illustration, in progress [for Section 5 Part 3 of the book], reflects the somewhat autobiographical parallels of the work:
I’m just trusting what’s ahead.
Sometimes a song expresses our states of being the best.
At present, Fiona Apple’s Container does it for me:
I was screaming into the canyon At the moment of my death The echo I created Outlasted my last breath
My voice it made an avalanche And buried a man I never knew And when he died his widowed bride Met your daddy and they made you
I have only one thing to do and that’s To be the wave that I am and then Sink back into the ocean
So the theme of the month of May was, according to the Power Path, NEW ALIGNMENT.
We have been shaken, rattled, taken apart, and sideswiped by the unexpected. We have had to accept change and embrace the unknown. The eclipses of March and April affected us on a very deep level, with core issues needing to be acknowledged, forgiven and cleared. We all agree that this is a new time with new possibilities and yet the clarity of what’s to come is just beyond our reach. We have glimpsed the potential of more power, but how do we integrate it into our lives?
These times are amazing, unsettled, a bit overwhelming and confusing, scary but awesome at the same time, and full of new opportunities. What is needed now is integration and assimilation that will help create a new alignment serving as a new platform from which we can move forward.
– The Power Path
OK. It’s the end of the month. And that month was a bit of a shit show- it really made me question my abilities and directions and choices that have brought me to this point.
I am finishing up other projects and redirecting my energy.
Aligning. I am aligning.
I have dug back, dug deep, let go and released. [Recall the metaphor of the slingshot.]
I am moving further away from the old patterns, and the old distractions, old hesitations.
I am working more and more on MOLLY. My goal is to move to an 85% mode of living– i.e. that soon 85% of my time will be spent on her. I am preparing to be shameless at making this work. Ruthless. Raising funds. Contacting publishers. Doing it right.
To escape the shackles of circumstance, she takes the darkest path.
Initially this project was all about: Who were the Babes in the Wood?
I present a new angle to this historical Vancouver mystery through crime scene reconstruction, forensic taphonomy, historical archives, genealogical records, behavior evidence analysis, circumstantial connections and artistic interpretation.
The initial goal of my research was to identify the children whose skeletal remains were found in Stanley Park on January 15, 1953, but Molly- a Graphic Novel is more a portrait of a city as told through the lens of one troubled young woman in post-war Vancouver.
I first immersed myself in the investigation in 2003 when I volunteered as a researcher with the Babes in the Wood Task Force. I have remained dedicated to the case ever since. Using a combination of text, primary sources, illustrations and photographs, I will present my research journey, equivocal findings and creative process to the reader.
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.
I am elated that I have a treatment with a structure that allows me to present the 12 + years of research.
This journey began in August 2003.
It has taken longer that expected but is taking exactly the time it needs.
I am grateful to have the gift of creativity and I now need to push my artistic expression further, bigger, fuller.
And I am grateful for my support network of family and friends who literally kept me on this planet. I’m still here and ready to DO THIS! To tell Molly’s story.
She’s guiding and I’m following direction. I am grateful she chose me!
Nobody creates a criminal profile on their own. – Brent Turvey
I want to thank the following people who have helped me in various ways to be able to research Molly’s story.
[details about their various involvements will appear in the graphic novel acknowledgments section]
Babes in the Wood task force: Sgt. Brian Honeybourn, Dr. David Sweet, George Garret
Staff at the following archives: Vancouver Police Centennial Museum, Pier 21 Society, BC Archives, Mountainview Cemetery, Vancouver Public Library: Special Collections, Vancouver Public Library: microfilm section, City of Vancouver Archives, Mission City Archives, Mission City Record, Toronto Children’s Aid Society, Japanese Canadian National Museum, Alberta Genealogical Society, Alberta Families Histories Society, City of Edmonton Archive, Provincial Archives of Alberta, Glenbow Archives
Helen Ritchey, Celtic Creations
Kickstarter backers including: Anthony Siress, Dustin Christensen, Paul Marquis, Laura Mack, Joanna Harks, Rob Bucci, Nelda Hinds, Victor Mendoza, Brad Slater, Selina Crammond, Henry Denander, Nancy Mortifee, Joseph Killian, Rebecca Rawlinson, Nathan Parker, Sandra Garcia, Sairah Hearns, Ian Powell, Steve Podborski, Warren Te Brugge, Brad Lawrence, John Demuynck, Robert Nadeau, Lynn Gosnell, Maud Kerzendörfer, Cecile Cowley, Eric Damon Walters
Jocelyn Louise (the model for Molly)
Jay Fisher (the stylist)
Want to help me tell this story?
1. Purchasing my art. I regularly post product and sales on this blog!
2. Donating (all donors and sales customers will be included in acknowledgments):
TODAY’S SALE: The Molly Paper Dress
If you are interested in purchasing this one-of-a-kind double-sided item featuring ORIGINAL embroidered drawings (wearable art– size 4 to 6 A-frame or wallhanging), that will be photographed for the graphic novel, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org
(free shipping- allow 4 weeks for delivery)
Payment via email transfer to email@example.com
I have no money, no resources, no hopes. I am the happiest man alive. A year ago, six months ago, I thought I was an artist. I no longer think about it, I am. Everything that was literature has fallen from me. There are no more books to be written, thank God.
This then? This is not a book. This is libel, slander, defamation of character. This is not a book, in the ordinary sense of the word…
Circumstantial evidence is evidence that relies on an inference to connect it to a conclusion of fact—like a fingerprint at the scene of a crime. By contrast, direct evidence supports the truth of an assertion directly—i.e., without need for any additional evidence or inference.
On its own, it is the nature of circumstantial evidence for more than one explanation to still be possible. Inference from one piece of circumstantial evidence may not guarantee accuracy. Circumstantial evidence usually accumulates into a collection, so that the pieces then become corroborating evidence. Together, they may more strongly support one particular inference over another. An explanation involving circumstantial evidence becomes more valid as proof of a fact when the alternative explanations have been ruled out.
On March 7, 2013, I was humbled at the generosity of Salmagundi West owner Anna Banner who allowed us to use her store as a back drop for our latest photoshoot!
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.
Sometimes, the truths that we hold to be fixed in our culture develop a fissure, which widens into a crack, and as we watch, the mirror shatters shard by shard, until nothing is left but fragments of the prejudice lying in disarray at our feet.
– Patricia Pearson, Perceptions of Female Violence and the Vocabulary of Motive
It rasped her, though, to have stirring about in her this brutal monster! To hear twigs cracking and feel hooves planted down in the depths of that leaf-encumbered forest, the soul; never to be content quite, or quite secure.
As I experiment with marrying text to illustration in my graphic novel, I am working from the end backwards, creating a working title and promotional mockup. Acting as if the book is completed, the project feels organized and allows me to create a skeletal framework on which to flesh out ideas. This framework can then be dismantled, contorted and altered as needed. It is not the final result by any means, but it is a great way to MOVE FORWARD. And I’m moving forward fast!
I have some exciting ideas as to how to present the finished work (format, paper etc) but first I will marry image to page and and image and pages to chapters and I am loving the creative process. Next up is ensuring all the permissions are in place for using primary sources, news articles, photographs and names within the work. And more photoshoots!
He brushed the leaves aside and uncovered the most baffling double murder Vancouver has ever had.
– The Vancouver Province April 15, 1953
Who killed the Babes in the Wood? Artist, art therapist and researcher, Katarina Thorsen, makes her case as to the resolution of this historical Vancouver mystery through crime scene reconstruction, forensic taphonomy, historical archives, genealogical records, behavior evidence analysis, circumstantial connections and artistic interpretation. Katarina first immersed herself in the investigation in 2003 when she volunteered as a criminal profiler and researcher with the Babes in the Wood Task Force. She has remained dedicated to the case ever since.
Using a combination of text, primary sources, illustrations and photographs, Katarina now presents her research journey, equivocal findings and creative process to the reader. The goal is to identify the children whose skeletal remains were found in Stanley Park on January 15, 1953. Through rich and insightful imagery, Regarding Molly reveals a portrait of a troubled young woman in post war Vancouver. The reader is encouraged to draw their own conclusion as to the identity of the Babes in the Wood, their mother and killer.
Following Katarina’s lead, readers will be inspired to search out their own stories using intensive genealogical research.
Artist/ art therapist Katarina Thorsen is passionate about the power of research and collaborative approaches to create solutions. She specializes in providing therapeutic art to at-risk youth and young offenders. Her own art work includes drawing, painting, crafting, journaling and street art and can be found in private international collections and on the streets of North America and Europe. She believes wholeheartedly in the healing power of art and its ability to build connections. Katarina resides in Vancouver, BC.
As an artist/researcher/behavior evidence analyst, these photos fill every cell of my being with joy! It is wonderful to allow a fellow artist the freedom to do his work within the context/limits of a vision. Extraordinary.
She waved as she made her way to the back door and out to the fire escape stairs. The firewood was stored under a musty tarp on the landing, and the hatchet [he] used to make kindling sat rusty and dull on top. [She] never noticed the hatchet placed in that way before, not in all the weeks and months she’d been climbing these fire escape steps. It was a sign, she knew, and though she wondered what exactly she would do with the hatchet if the footsteps followed her again, she snatched the thing up and rested it on her shoulder.