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Writing, Illustrating & Publishing => Book Talk => Topic started by: jadedmetaphor on April 23, 2006, 03:45 AM

Title: How Opal Mehta got plagiarized...
Post by: jadedmetaphor on April 23, 2006, 03:45 AM
 :faint:

Uh-Oh. It appears Kaavya Viswanathan's Opal Mehta book copies word for word parts of Megan McCafferty's Sloppy Firsts and paraphrases other passages.

http://www.thecrimson.com/article.aspx?ref=512948

Plagiarism is so uncool...  :smoke
Title: Re: How Opal Mehta got plagiarized...
Post by: Pickles on April 23, 2006, 06:31 AM
I noticed the article was dated last fall. I wonder if anything else has come from this.

It's hard to tell. There are so many similarities in this one though. If she did, she was clever enough to change things enough to make it harder to catch.

I have seen articles suggesting you jot down phrases you see in other books to use later in your own work. This is something I very much disagree with.

Title: Re: How Opal Mehta got plagiarized...
Post by: lurban on April 23, 2006, 06:46 AM
I live in fear of inadvertantly lifting someone else's prose.  I'm a mimic to begin with (just a half hour of listening to the BBC and I've got an accent). Great phrases and concepts stick in my head and then worm their way into my being and I'm very concerned that someday something I think is mine will turn out to be from something I've read.  If it can happen to Doris Kearns Goodwin, I think it can happen to anyone.
Title: Re: How Opal Mehta got plagiarized...
Post by: Jaina on April 23, 2006, 07:00 AM
Ouch, I have found myself lifting a phrase by accident from a book I've read a million times--when it hits my work, I usually think Wait, that sounds familiar . . . where did I get that?  It's always something like three or four words in a row, not a sentence.  One ended up being from Sarah, Plain and Tall . . .   I'd read it so many times that this turn of phrase was in my head.  When I do this, I always look up the suspicious phrase, find it, turn red and delete, delete, delete!  It's humiliating to realize those words that you thought were so great ARE so great because they're SOMEONE ELSE'S!  It has only happened to me when I've read a book so much I've internalized it.

From reading the examples given in the article, I'd say Viswanathan must have read that McCafferty book about a million plus one and then completely forgotten it and thought the clever phrasing was hers.  Though it's really hard to look at it and not think she had the other book sitting right in front of her.  Which would be very, very dumb for a Harvard kid, huh?

I always think of that story that Hellen Keller told--I think it was in The Story of My Life.  She once won a contest after writing what she believed was a completely original (children's fairy?) story.  She was terrifically pleased until she later found out that she'd been told that story in her childhood by Anne Sullivan.  All those years, it had stayed inside her only to come out for the contest.  She was very embarrassed to have claimed it as her own creation.

I only see today's date on the news article?
Title: Re: How Opal Mehta got plagiarized...
Post by: steph on April 23, 2006, 07:46 AM
Okay well this article was enough to make me de-lurk!

Pickles, I'm not sure where you see it was printed in the fall, my browser shows the article was printed april 23,2006.

After reading through the various passages, I don't see how it is possible to think this is not plagiarism. It's not like the thoughts were similar, it was entire passages word-for-word. The passages that were re-worded, read like they were craftily re-worded.

In my wip I have a similar 'idea' in regards to girls maturing and moving on to boys, and when I first read the passage, I was a little concerned.
I went directly to my chapter and re-read what I had wrote. Not one word was the  same even though it gets the same point across.

I would like to give this author the benefit of the doubt  because it makes me a little sick thinking if it is proven to be true, we (the fabulous, but as yet unpublished ::) will suffer for it.

It seems to me that 'Opal..' was being created around the time that Mcafferty's work would have hit the book stores - hmmm.

I will be watching this story eagerly over the coming weeks

** just wanted to add that I hadn't realized that the paper carrying the story is the Harvard Crimson.
Title: Re: How Opal Mehta got plagiarized...
Post by: Pickles on April 23, 2006, 08:01 AM
okay, it shows April 23 now, but when I first saw it is said November 2005. I'm sure. I don't think I'm delusional.

That's strange. And I didn't flip back to another article. Hmmmm.
Title: Re: How Opal Mehta got plagiarized...
Post by: Pickles on April 23, 2006, 08:06 AM
I had another long post..but I deleted.

Just in brief, a friend and I were both plagiarized by different people in different college lit mags in the same year. It was all within the same university system. The person who plagiarized him was a Masters degree Candidate in Education. There were other cases besides us that year, and it nearly shut down at least one magazine. I had to threaten legal action to have mine taken care of because the administration didn't understand why someone like me who wrote such beautiful sensitive poetry would want to tarnish reputations. Excuse me?

Anyway, let's just say that attitudes toward the seriousness of plagiarism vary big time. Her response of "I don't know what you're talking about," is telling enough as it is.

This will be interesting.

-k.
Title: Re: How Opal Mehta got plagiarized...
Post by: krw3b on April 23, 2006, 08:11 AM
Her response of "I don't know what you're talking about," is telling enough as it is.


I agree.
Title: Re: How Opal Mehta got plagiarized...
Post by: W. L. Decker on April 23, 2006, 08:29 AM
If it isn't true, it sure makes me afraid to read anything in the genre I'm writing for.

As far as writing down passages from other books goes. That could be a very dangerous thing. But then again, doesn't everyone write down quotes they like. Hmmm, very sketchy. I certainly wouldn't want to be her right now. :-\
Title: Re: How Opal Mehta got plagiarized...
Post by: Lenzi on April 23, 2006, 08:46 AM
Wow, it sure doesn't look good. I wonder if the publisher regrets making a book deal with a high schooler. I imagine the older you get, the more aware of these issues you would become...... I'm not saying she should be excused for naivety, but it may have been a factor in the problem....
Title: Re: How Opal Mehta got plagiarized...
Post by: lurban on April 23, 2006, 10:26 AM
A friend of mine gave a conference paper once on plagiarism in the age of postmodernism.  She argued that with so much sampling, pastiche, and allusion in popular culture it is increasingly difficult for students to understand exactly what plagiarism is.  She wasn't offering this as an excuse -- simply a statement of how blurry the line might be for some writers/students.

If this was a deliberate act, it is possible that it was not perceived of as a serious offense.  Again -- not an excuse, just context. 

Whatever the result, I hope Megan McCafferty sees increased sales.
Title: Re: How Opal Mehta got plagiarized...
Post by: andracill on April 23, 2006, 10:37 AM
I think it happened too many times to be a coincidence -- and the passages are too similar.  It's one thing to find a similar concept/phrasing once -- but that many times?  I don't think so.  Plus, as I mentioned in my livejournal, I just attended a writing conference, and one of the classes was on voice -- the author did an excellent job of showing us how our voice is so unique -- and these passages were expressed far too similarly for that.  she may not have meant to plagiarize -- maybe she thought she could 'borrow' McAfferty's technique or something without it being plagiarism....
Title: Re: How Opal Mehta got plagiarized...
Post by: maripat on April 23, 2006, 11:05 AM
I don't know if I'd call it plagiarism. To me it sounded like their voices were a lot alike. Yeah, there were similarities between the paragraphs but I've read adult stories with similar concepts. The 170 store part could be a strange coincidence. I was once part of a writing class, with over a hundred entries, and three of them came up with plots about an ogre, troll taking on the position of a toothfairy. Two of them changed their plots when they realized. No one had intentionally copied. It was just a strange twist.


Maripat
Title: Re: How Opal Mehta got plagiarized...
Post by: jadedmetaphor on April 23, 2006, 12:09 PM
The wording is much too similar for my comfort. I could understand a quick snappy line, or maybe two, somehow seeping into her brain (goodness knows I live in fear of that happening to me!), but there are frequent full paragraphs where it seems she's paraphrased (and not too well) MM's work. It seems doubtful that someone could transfer some exact words in paragraphs and add in parts of their own story for others so frequently. It seems like something a person directly paraphrasing/copying would do.  Plus, the article said the opening sequence was pretty much exactly like MM's, too...

I know she seems like a talented writer, but my husband pointed out- If she was willing to copy parts of MM's book, who knows who else's work/ideas she copied.

I think we're quick not to condemn because we fear this could happen to us. We know how easy it is to let something small creep in, even if we're vigilant (and I'm glad it seems we all are taking steps to safeguard). But, more than a teeny bit creeped into her work.

Voice, to me, is an overall feeling and tone- NOT exact words copied here and there.

I look forward to hearing responses from her and MM.
Title: Re: How Opal Mehta got plagiarized...
Post by: sbk(linda) on April 23, 2006, 12:29 PM
It can be easy to let other people's words slip into your own writing without realizing it. I've had to change a few lines in things because people have pointed out they sound similar to things by authors I've never even read, though. Have I just heard the lines before? Or is it coincidence? I don't know but I was quick to change those words so there would be no misunderstandings.

In this case, there were way too many similarities in too many places for it to be a coincidence. She clearly knew what she was doing. I'll be curious to see what happens with that second book deal.
Title: Re: How Opal Mehta got plagiarized...
Post by: steph on April 23, 2006, 12:36 PM
Here's a link to an interesting review from April 21, 2006.

http://www.thecrimson.com/article.aspx?ref=512870

Title: Re: How Opal Mehta got plagiarized...
Post by: Pickles on April 23, 2006, 02:14 PM
I think there are too many similarities for it to be a coincidence. They all seem very, very close except for the last one.

When I read manuscripts I see a lot of similar topics and plots, also. But not identical wording, not anything this close.

I do agree that it's either hard for students to understand what does and does not constitute plagiarism, or that they aren't taught how serious it is.
Title: Re: How Opal Mehta got plagiarized...
Post by: Jen on April 23, 2006, 02:29 PM
This is an overwhelming number of coincidences, but at the same time, I cannot think that anyone would be so stupid as to plagiarize some of those sentences deliberately.  For starters, it would take a great deal of effort to search through another book and find sentences that fit into yours, and secondly, even if you did that, why wouldn't you change at least SOME of the details?  I mean, why keep it "170 stores" instead of changing it to "146" or something like that.  Unless you were the dumbest plagiarist in the history of the world, that one would be a no brainer. 

I think it's obvious that the author read SLOPPY FIRSTS, and I think it's likely that she has a really incredible memory.  Given this, I think it's at least POSSIBLE that she didn't realize what she was doing.  At the same time, though, I'm tempted to think that when this author got her book deal, she decided she needed to study up on the genre (I think I read something somewhere that originally, she'd proposed another, more literary book, and they talked her into doing chick lit).  So maybe she went out and bought two or three exemplary teen chick lit books, and read them a few times to get an idea of how she should write a teen chick lit.  And after she read this book (or a few books), some of the sentences stuck with her.

It's scary to think that something like this could be unintentional, but at the same time, if you read really broadly in your genre, the chances of this happening to this degree are slim to none, because you'll have read SO MANY books and internalized SO MANY sentences that you're unlikely to produce a bunch of sentences identical to one author or one book.  If Kaavya had read ninety or a hundred chick lit books, even if she had the best memory of the world, I doubt her subconscious would have regenerated so many of Mccafferty's sentences, because she would have had a much larger number of influences.  My guess is that this young author studied up on her genre in a very specific way, but didn't have the kind of broad exposure to it that most writers have, and as a result, her "studying" came back to bite her in the butt.
Title: Re: How Opal Mehta got plagiarized...
Post by: almarrone on April 23, 2006, 02:58 PM
I agree with Jen--I really would like to think it was unintentional--if it wasn't you'd think she would have tried harder to make the passages her own-Sloppy Firsts is a popular book--why copy something that so many people have read and would likely see the similarities?  Still--the passages are so close--I mentioned on someone's blog that perhaps she has a photographic memory or close to it and didn't realize what she was doing.  I'm very interested to see how the author of the article came by the information, too.
Title: Re: How Opal Mehta got plagiarized...
Post by: Pickles on April 23, 2006, 03:00 PM
I think I agree with you Jen. I remember an editor at a conference saying that if you read enough you didn't have to worry about accidentally incorporating things.  That makes sense.

As for the 170, I often find place names or names of people in my work shortly after I've read something.  Also, after being told by an editor to read a certain book because it was similar to mind, I found I had incorporated more than I thought.

I think your theory is about right, and that someone with a grudge did the sleuthing to bring this to light. Funny, that it hit the Haarvard paper first.

-k
Title: Re: How Opal Mehta got plagiarized...
Post by: Inspired on April 23, 2006, 03:10 PM
I've seen so many kids change a word or a phrase and think they're not plagiarizing.  I wouldn't be surprised if that's what happened here.  Students do this all the time. 

I've sent a copy of the article with the examples to a friend who teaches English, so she can share them with her class. 
Title: Re: How Opal Mehta got plagiarized...
Post by: Anne Marie on April 23, 2006, 03:21 PM
It would be nice to think that it was unintentional and I guess it could be.

However, there's an epidemic of plagiarism on college campuses right now--there has always been cheating but the rise of the Internet has made cut-and-paste "writing" phenomenally easy--and for some, the norm.  And according to some studies I've read, a lot of students don't even think of it as cheating.  Just google "college plagiarism" and you'll come up with scads of interesting articles/studies/columns/what-have-you.  Here's a start:

http://www.web-miner.com/plagiarism

I'm not saying this writer did this.  For now, I'm saying only that a lot of people do and don't think twice about it being wrong.

In fact, I remember the same article Pickles mentioned above.  In it, the writer advocated pulling nice phrases from books you liked (noting them with post-its while you read, then going back and writing them into a notebook) that you could later use to spruce up your own work.  I was appalled. :(

AM
Title: Re: How Opal Mehta got plagiarized...
Post by: sbk(linda) on April 23, 2006, 03:31 PM
I can't believe the timing of this.

This afternoon my son (12) brought me his project to proofread for typos so he could hand it in later in the week. After less than a minute of reading I had to ask him for the book where he got all the information. When I put his project side by side with the book, it was ALMOST word for word. He had changed a few words here and there and he added a bit of extra info every once in awhile but it was basically the same.

I couldn't believe it! I told him he had plagiarized and he flat out denied it. He said he had changed enough words that it wasn't the same anymore. So... I read him the article about Opal Mehta and all of the examples of the two stories and their similarities to make my point. He actually sat there and said it was different. He thought that since it was fiction, it was wrong to copy  because those are someones ideas and words "from scratch" but non-fiction was different. "How can you state a fact in your own words? It changes the fact."

Strange logic but he was convinced that because he was copying facts, it didn't matter. Guess where he is now? He's rewriting his whole project.
Title: Re: How Opal Mehta got plagiarized...
Post by: dawn on April 23, 2006, 03:46 PM
I have to say, it's very odd that anyone would do this intentionally and think they would get away with it, so I'm a bit puzzled. I remember working with some students that truly didn't understand what plagiarism was, but these were mostly adult learners or community college students. We're talking about someone who is a student at Harvard. I took advanced English classes all through middle school and high school, and I was well aware of what plagiarism was by the time I was a freshman in high school - and I went to a state university.

I think it's likely (like a previous poster said), she didn't read widely in this genre and maybe intended to borrow the style of the book, but ended up borrowing more (plagiarizing) either intentionally or unintentionally. I'll be interested to see what happens.
Title: Re: How Opal Mehta got plagiarized...
Post by: Anne Marie on April 23, 2006, 03:52 PM
Quote
We're talking about someone who is a student at Harvard. I took advanced English classes all through middle school and high school, and I was well aware of what plagiarism was by the time I was a freshman in high school - and I went to a state university.

That makes logical sense, but some of the research says that the combination of pressure to achieve and an entitlement mentality makes super-high-achievers more likely to cheat.

AM
Title: Re: How Opal Mehta got plagiarized...
Post by: dawn on April 23, 2006, 03:54 PM
Yes, that's what I meant. She knows what plagiarizing is, no doubt. Some of the posts here seemed to be saying she may not have.
Title: Re: How Opal Mehta got plagiarized...
Post by: Aud on April 23, 2006, 03:56 PM
I find this whole thing fascinating--the article and the ensuing conversation.

It reminds me of a graduate fiction workshop I once took. A co-worker happened to be in the same class. There was one wonderful story that was very well received, and my co-worker (not a gifted fiction writer) showed me what she had done with it in the weeks after class. She had parsed this other writer's story and taken small sections and tried rewriting them as her own. I remember very clearly that the original described a home as being the color of butter, and my colleague changed it to something like a house as brownish gold as honey. She had gone through the whole piece and changed little bits, trying to glean the magic from the original, but turn it into her own.

I wonder if the author didn't have some phrases she lifted, meaning to get back to change them to her own language. It's hard to believe that this is wholly coincidental.
Title: Re: How Opal Mehta got plagiarized...
Post by: heatherayris on April 23, 2006, 03:58 PM
Linda - I can remember as a kid, having a hard time figuring out how to say what the facts from the encyclopedia were, in my own words. There was a time(around second grade I believe) where that is what I thought I was supposed to do. Look it up, change a few words around, write it down. It seemed so authoritative at the time that I didn't have much more to say. It's a good learning experience for him. It's too bad we don't all get it pointed out to us. Lucky boy has a writer for a mom.
As for adults, I can see unintentional or subconscious, but purposefully, there really is no excuse.
Title: Re: How Opal Mehta got plagiarized...
Post by: missy t on April 23, 2006, 04:39 PM
i hope it was unintentional but i have a feeling it wasn't.  jen brought up a good point about changing things more (such as saying 146 stores instead of 170 stores just like the original) but i'm almost wondering if she left it the same on purpose so if she got caught she could claim it was unintentional because no one would be so stupid as to leave 170 stores as 170 stores.
Title: Re: How Opal Mehta got plagiarized...
Post by: sbk(linda) on April 23, 2006, 04:56 PM
LOL, Ayris! I said the same thing to my son, that he's lucky to have a writer-mom who can teach him all this great stuff. His reaction was, well, less than enthusiastic.

I've always felt that plagiarism was the kind of thing that decreases with age. For example, children in grade 3 doing their first research project will likely copy a lot of the information they read but as long as they are learning how to put a project together, are learning about their subject and they understand what they are writing, it's okay. By grade 4, there should be a stronger attempt to find a way to use their own words and they should at least use quotations if they take it from a book directly.

By grade 6-7, they should definitely know what plagairism is and try to avoid it at all costs but with the occasional accidental 'oops, I took too much from that book.'

By high school, there is no room for misunderstanding and mistakes. And university? Please.

In my eyes anyway.
Title: Re: How Opal Mehta got plagiarized...
Post by: Pickles on April 23, 2006, 05:20 PM
My wip is similar to a book which took a Newbery Honor. The editor interested in my wip had suggested I read this (that's before it got the award). I have since changed my plot significantly, and I bought the book so I could double check.

It does seem hard to believe it was intentional, that the stakes would be too high, but then I never understood why a Masters Degree student would plagiarize. She blamed my friend, whom she plagiarized, for her inability to get a job because the incident went in her academic records.

Again, it will be interesting to see how this plays out.
Title: Re: How Opal Mehta got plagiarized...
Post by: Jen on April 23, 2006, 05:23 PM
All together, the plagiarized sections constitute 355 words of a 320 page hardback novel.

 I really can't understand what the author would have thought she could gain by intentionally plagiarizing them.  She's obviously capable of writing on her own, since the majority of the novel is probably not plagiarized from anything.  So why risk it for 355 words?  And why do it so blatantly?  As someone else said, I have no doubts that a student of her caliber KNOWS that copying or paraphrasing another author like that is plagiarism, and that it's wrong.  I don't believe for a second that this is a "students these days just don't know what plagiarism is" thing.  So if she did do this intentionally, then I think it's safe to say that she knew it was a bad thing to do and did it anyway, which means that, in all likelihood, given the miniscule scale of what she stood to gain, she was either REALLY certain that she wouldn't get caught, or she wasn't consciously doing it at all.
Title: Re: How Opal Mehta got plagiarized...
Post by: Emily on April 23, 2006, 05:30 PM
I dunno, I obviously don't know this author, or her character, but to me, it seems pretty obvious.  I could understand that certain descriptions in similar books could turn out to be eerily synonomous, but this to me, is a different thing altogether.  

I can't imagine that it would be possible to have such a similar thought process, or 'voice' that certain dialougue passages could be nearly identical to that of another writer's.  How many people would say that two characters masochadistically..sp?, bought diet cokes at cinnabon/mrs. fields?  Honestly it is a very clever line, and I'm guessing she internalized it, and inserted it into her own book because it was such an innovative way to convey a character's mindset.  I mean, it is just too bizarre that all of these 'similiarities' come from two books by megan mcafferty.  If there were five passages that seemed to come from FIVE DIFFERENT books, I might think differently.   If had to wager on it, I'd guess she went through the books and highlighted passages that were interesting to her, and then found a way to incorporate them into her own novel, possibly even changing the plot or circumstances to accomodate them.  Maybe I'm just a pessimist.  

Emily
Title: Re: How Opal Mehta got plagiarized...
Post by: maripat on April 23, 2006, 05:44 PM
For starters, it would take a great deal of effort to search through another book and find sentences that fit into yours, and secondly, even if you did that, why wouldn't you change at least SOME of the details?  I mean, why keep it "170 stores" instead of changing it to "146" or something like that.  Unless you were the dumbest plagiarist in the history of the world, that one would be a no brainer. 



That's what keeps bugging me. I can't imagine someone going through all that trouble. As for the diet coke, well, I worked at fast food joint as a kid (during the early 80's) and after placing a big order, the person would order a diet coke or Pepsi saying they had to watch their weight. I got so tired of hearing that joke I wanted to scream, instead of smiling and handing back their change.

It'll be interesting to see how this plays out.

Maripat
Title: Re: How Opal Mehta got plagiarized...
Post by: jadedmetaphor on April 23, 2006, 05:57 PM
All together, the plagiarized sections constitute 355 words of a 320 page hardback novel.

That is, *if* that's the only novel/work she copied.

Even if that's all, that's over a page's worth of work, spread throughout the book, which, to me, is a lot.
Title: Re: How Opal Mehta got plagiarized...
Post by: Mrs. Jones on April 23, 2006, 06:03 PM
This is very interesting.  I skimmed through most of the thread, looking to see if anyone knows why this woman was offered $500,000 in a two-book deal while she was still in HIGH SCHOOL.  Anyone know the details about that?

Just a thought, but perhaps she was desperately trying to meet the deadline for the first book, crammed a multitude of books in the YA/teen girl genre down her brain ... made notes and highlighted passages that stuck out as "oooh, that's a good way to say that," and then sat down to write her book ---- (a book she most likely didn't feel prepared to write by herself)  surrounded by all her notes.  Just like she did when she wrote her college papers.  This kind of stuff doesn't happen one time.  

I wonder if all the writers in that teen chick lit genre shouldn't read her book ... they might find some even more interesting passages.
Title: Re: How Opal Mehta got plagiarized...
Post by: andracill on April 23, 2006, 06:14 PM
I also still think that although she certainly knows what plagiarism is, she may have convinced herself that this didn't fall into that category -- just like your son, sbk...'I changed enough words' -- she may have been sloppy and thought that counted.  After all, smart or not, she was only 16.  I met a 16 year old at the conference this weekend, and she was very gifted, without a doubt, but I could see her doing something like this -- to get ahead, to get that extra push, that extra point across...one of the agents called her an 'overachiever'...perhaps Opal's author was similar?  I don't know.  But I don't think it was a coincidence by any means!
Title: Re: How Opal Mehta got plagiarized...
Post by: jadedmetaphor on April 23, 2006, 06:17 PM
Update from Yahoo news:

http://p39.news.re2.yahoo.com/s/ap/20060423/ap_en_ot/young_author;_ylt=AickTEeQ7Nt9J3DH_Nm9eZVREhkF;_ylu=X3oDMTBjMHVqMTQ4BHNlYwN5bnN1YmNhdA--
Title: Re: How Opal Mehta got plagiarized...
Post by: Cynthia on April 23, 2006, 06:30 PM
It couldn't have been coincidental, if by that you mean that she hadn't even read MM's book.  And I find it hard to believe that she doesn't know what plagiarism is.  I read the passages to my 6th grader, a high achiever, and he knew it was plagiarism right away - both in the strict sense of using exact words, and also in the more subtle use of the voice and situation.

One, or even two of these, and I would believe that she had just pulled it out from her memory unknowingly.  But this?  Either she knew what she was doing and thought she could get away with it, or she had put these passage in- almost as place-holders, intending to change it but forgetting, or the theory of using notecards from other books, like writing a term paper.

I hope it's the last.

Note to self: don't take notes from other novels
Title: Re: How Opal Mehta got plagiarized...
Post by: Mara on April 23, 2006, 06:56 PM
This reminds me of a similar situation a few months ago:

http://www.hbook.com/blog/2006/02/snake-tale.html#links

Personally, I would like to think these folks are plagiarizing on purpose (because I'm afraid of plagiarizing by accident!) but it's hard to believe they wouldn't expect anyone to notice, especially the one with the same title!

As far as how she got caughtI don't think it was necessarily someone with a grudge against the author. Since the story was in the Harvard Crimson, my guess is that one of the author's fellow students read her book and remembered Sloppy Firsts, which came out five years ago--i.e. when a current college student might have been reading YA. As I recall I had a much better memory for details when I was a kid, and was more likely to read the same book repeatedly, so it doesn't seem unlikely to me that a college student would remember phrases from a book read in junior high or high school.
Title: Re: How Opal Mehta got plagiarized...
Post by: Jen on April 23, 2006, 07:08 PM
That is, *if* that's the only novel/work she copied.

Even if that's all, that's over a page's worth of work, spread throughout the book, which, to me, is a lot.

I don't mean that it's not a lot in terms of plagiarism- it is, and I think MM would be justified in taking some kind of action.  I'm not trying to minimize the seriousness of it- I'm trying to put the amount of "work" or "time" it would have saved her to steal these bits into perspective.  When you're writing a 320 page book, it's not going to save you a tremendous amount of effort to have a page of material you get from elsewhere.  Even if the author did this with four or five different books, she'd still be left with at least 310 or 315 pages that she had to write herself.  It's impossible that any kind of majority of the book could be lifted from other books- it just wouldn't be doable.

So the question I'm asking myself is why would anyone do this?  Why risk everything for what amounts to saving you very little time or work?  There are really only three answers: either she did it on purpose, but didn't realize it was wrong, she did it on purpose, realized it was wrong, but didn't think she'd get caught, or it was somehow accidental.  There is no way that someone would do this, think there was a decent chance of getting caught, and do it anyway- if you thought there was ANY chance of getting caught, the benefits would be far, FAR outweighed by potential risks.

I can't help but think that however this happened, one of the major contributing factors was the way in which this deal was offered.  The author was referred to a literary agent by her college counselor, and they "discussed" and "brainstormed" a proposal, which suggests (to me at least) that Opal Mehta was not a work that the author had started writing before the meeting.  They later sent four chapters and a synopsis and it sold based on that.  Little, Brown then sent Kaavya to a packager, to help the seventeen year old with the book.  I read an article in which her editor was quoted as saying there was "more shaping to this book" than most of the books they do.

To me, this all sounds an awful lot like they found a kid who could write and had a decently interesting angle (the Harvard thing), and they sent her to a packager to make the book into a more widely appealing chick lit book.  She was getting input on marketing from all sides before the book was anywhere near finished, and I'd bet a lot of money that she was under pressure to up the chick lit aspects of the book.

I can't imagine writing a book this way, ESPECIALLY your first book.  If you're getting that much input and influence from different places (the agent, the packager, etc) before you've written more than four chapters, how much of the book is going to feel like it's really yours anyway?  I think, that if you want to trace her motivation back to pressure somehow, it may be more the pressure to "write the book LIKE THIS" rather than just the pressure to finish writing her book.

Not, of course, that any of this excuses the plagiarism- I definitely don't think it does.  And I really hate to think how this might change public (or industry) opinion towards teen authors in general...
Title: Re: How Opal Mehta got plagiarized...
Post by: Jaina on April 23, 2006, 07:13 PM
Either way, I feel quite sorry for the girl (intentional cheater or no).  I think a novel about an overachieving young person who was so intent on being the "prodigy" that she was reckless enough to steal a few clever passages from another novel for her own makes a fascinating story--more fascinating than the nerdy-girl-goes-wild-to-get-into-Harvard tale.  I wouldn't be surprised if Dreamworks buys the film rights to that one, too.

Unfortunately, it looks like this could mean no more Harvard for her.  If you google "Opal Mehta plagiarism," you get this link:
http://topics.nytimes.com/top/reference/timestopics/subjects/w/writing_and_writers/index.html?query=HARVARD%20UNIVERSITY&field=org&match=exact

There's an earlier article about her book and if you look down a few headlines, there's an article about Harvard professors ("When Plagiarism's Shadow Falls on Admired Scholars").  'Course it wasn't like this was a school paper or anything, but I don't think it's going to do her any good.
Title: Re: How Opal Mehta got plagiarized...
Post by: Jaina on April 23, 2006, 07:17 PM
Jen, do you think there's anyway there's another possibility?  That she did it on purpose, knew it was wrong, and wanted to get caught?  I mean, I don't know the girl, but --

We had a professor when I was in law school who was caught shoplifting.  It shocked the school, but they understood this was a mental health issue, so they worked with him.  He obviously didn't need the whatever-it-was--he made quite good money.  Anyway, a few years later, he was caught again and lost his job.  I really liked the guy and felt quite bad that he had this issue.  I don't condone shoplifting, of course.

I don't condone plagiarism, either.  I have flunked college freshmen for it, though I never turned them into the dean for expulsion (as I was supposed to).
Title: Re: How Opal Mehta got plagiarized...
Post by: Pickles on April 23, 2006, 07:53 PM
Okay, after reading Jen's latest, so you think these "coincidences" could have come from a source other than the author, since the manuscript was being shaped and tinkered with so much.  As in , maybe suggested changes, and she didnt' realize they came from MM's book?

And I agree with Jaina. I feel sorry for the girl.
Title: Re: How Opal Mehta got plagiarized...
Post by: Jen on April 23, 2006, 07:58 PM
Okay, after reading Jen's latest, so you think these "coincidences" could have come from a source other than the author, since the manuscript was being shaped and tinkered with so much.  As in , maybe suggested changes, and she didnt' realize they came from MM's book?
.

I didn't mean to imply that I thought the packager or anyone else is responsible for these phrases.  I think that is HIGHLY unlikely.  I just wonder how much the fact that she was getting input from all of these external sources might have contributed to whatever mindset she had that led her to lifting these passages, either intentionally or unintentionally.
Title: Re: How Opal Mehta got plagiarized...
Post by: Pickles on April 23, 2006, 08:10 PM
Oh, you didn't imply it. I just wondered.

I found this interesting article on the subject of plagiarizing and accidental borrowing.

http://www.anchoragepress.com/archives-2006/literaturevol15ed13.shtml
Title: Re: How Opal Mehta got plagiarized...
Post by: Jaina on April 23, 2006, 08:21 PM
Thanks for the read, Pickles--I enjoyed that!
Title: Re: How Opal Mehta got plagiarized...
Post by: Vijaya on April 23, 2006, 08:23 PM
I'm shocked to read this after a lovely weekend with my family ...

Intentional or unintentional, I think it reflects poorly on the author.  It's hard to believe why someone who obviously shows talent would cheat, unless she doesn't realize that it is wrong.  Several people have mentioned that cheating is rampant.  Is it because there is a general decline in morals?  Fuzzy morality?  The competition is stiff, so I copied?  I copied because I can do it?

Vijaya
Title: Re: How Opal Mehta got plagiarized...
Post by: Melissa on April 23, 2006, 08:56 PM
Plagiarism in General:
I've had a surprising number of students simply not *get* the idea of plagiarism. Recently, I failed a girl (& submitted it for further academic review).  Her explanation was that she hadn't "copied the whole thing." Copying ideas/concepts is a sort of dishonesty too. 

They were taught that lifting passages of text is "research" & if it's not "word for word" or a certain percentage, it's not plagiarism. In fact, the software/service I beta-tested at my old university gave me a percentage report.

I used to be shocked by the number of students who truly didn't get why I was being "so unreasonable."  Sadly, I've been a bit less shocked as time passes. I don't know of a solution. Over the past decade, I gave a hard-core You Cheat, You Fail lecture to every single class (more than once).  I made them sign an Honour Code. I offer extensions. I still bust at least one almost every term. It's disheartening.

The worst? Having a student turn in text I wrote (no joke) and sign his name to it. *sigh* It was beyond depressing.

TANGENT from there:
A question that arises--academically speaking not in re: this specific book--is the line between plagiarism & homage. S.T. Coleridge was accused of plagiarism. Eliot's use of phrases was "using touchstones" & "making allusions." It's not a clear-cut answer.  If my character feels like a "pair of ragged claws" am I offering homage to Eliot? With literature, the answer there is yes, it's homage.  If, however, I use a phrase from New Living Author it's plagiarism.

Title: Re: How Opal Mehta got plagiarized...
Post by: jadedmetaphor on April 23, 2006, 11:28 PM
That is, *if* that's the only novel/work she copied.

Even if that's all, that's over a page's worth of work, spread throughout the book, which, to me, is a lot.

Let me clarify- That's a page + of carefully selected, artfully honed quotes that obviously fulfilled some purpose she thought she couldn't handle on her own. If I took a page's worth of John Donne's lines and put them in my horrible poetry journal from way back in high school/early college, it would sound a lot better. Even though she lifted a small fraction of text (as far as we know), I imagine she did use the quotes to save herself a lot of work. Why else use them? We all know how much time and effort it takes to make something sing. The grace notes, while small, are often the most important parts. A few lines here and there could have been her grace notes.
Still, I wouldn't be surprised at all if she's copied much more than we presently realize.
Title: Re: How Opal Mehta got plagiarized...
Post by: sheela chari on April 24, 2006, 05:26 AM
I have been reading this whole thread with interest (and a little bit of sadness to be honest).

I thought I might add one more possible explanation to the mix here. As the child of a first-generation immigrant family, one of the things that has always given me anxiety in my own writing is wondering if my dialogue and the voices of my characters sound authentically American. This is because I grew up in a household where English was a second-language. It was spoken well, but the expressions, the way of phrasing things were distinctly foreign.
When I was in a writing program, my teacher constantly made comments about my dialogue being off -- the diction sounding strange or the colloquialisms being off. In fact, until he mentioned it, I had never noticed it, but after it did, it has always been a source of worry.

I don't know Viswanathan and I haven't read her book so this is really just speculation. But I can't help wondering if she had the same anxiety herself. Maybe it could have even been a comment from an agent or editor or other involved party -- your dialogue sounds wooden, you need to make them sound more chick-lit.  Who knows? And in those last pressure-filled days during finals, she might have thought, well how do characters sound, how do they talk in other popular books? Let me study them and see if I can replicate that voice. Notice a lot of the similar passages are pieces of dialogue. And she might not have tried to copy everything obviously, just a few things here and there to round out the voice.

Even now I'm working on a book with a male character and being female, I've turned to other books with male characters to hear their voices, to see how they speak. I try to listen teenage boys when I get the chance. I think the instinct to do that is okay and even told to us (study the masters, etc). But I think what she did as a result was reprehensible. I wish her editor and agent had been more vigilant. I wish she really thought about what she was doing. But these are all after the fact, of course.
Title: Re: How Opal Mehta got plagiarized...
Post by: Mrs. Jones on April 24, 2006, 06:13 AM


I understand the argument.  But, if she had such trouble, why would she stand out enough for Little, Brown to offer her (at 17) a two-book contract that any of us would slobber over?  Developing an authentic voice takes time and mileage on the keyboard, and in life experience. 

It just doesn't make sense to me ... and, I'll bet, now that they think about it, somebody over at Little, Brown is kicking themselves.  Perhaps 'they' thought, okay, we need a book about teens/college age girls, why not go straight to the source? A really smart, Harvard bound gal.  How many writers on the blue boards --- no matter how well they wrote as teens or in college ---- knowing what they know now at say, age 35-55, would have been able to hand over a quality product to Little, Brown at the age of 19?  A product worth $500,000 ... okay, one book, $250,000.

Nope, the story doesn't jive.

Title: Re: How Opal Mehta got plagiarized...
Post by: steph on April 24, 2006, 06:19 AM
Found this interview with the author - I believe before her book came out.

Cleary the 'author's who have inspired her' question could have been expanded!

http://www.bookpage.com/0604bp/kavya_viswanathan.html


You know in reading bits and pieces of this story from various sources, I don't know what to think.

Yes, from the beginning I (as in my personal opinion)felt it was plagiarized material.

Yes  I feel she 'cheated' and the appropriate measures should be taken by the publishing houses involved.

I'm starting to see her as a pawn in several peoples games. I mean, Harvard clearly likes to eat their young, and I would be very interested to know what part did the agent, editor(s), publishing house, 'packager' play in this charade - that's where I feel the truth to this story is held.


As an aside, am I the only one that doesn't remember  the  Janet Daily (sp?) issue with Nora Roberts.
 

Title: Re: How Opal Mehta got plagiarized...
Post by: sheela chari on April 24, 2006, 06:25 AM
Ena,
I don't know if you were responding to me, but I wanted to clarify about what I meant by an authentic voice. I agree with what you said on how it takes time and skill to sustain a voice through a whole book. But I think I was mostly referring to dialogue -- to phrases, certain word choices that sound American, or more specifically like an American teenage girl.
Dialogue is such a tricky thing -- you never really know if you are getting it right, especially if you are anxious about it in the first place.

I also wanted to add that it really depends on what else is unearthed in her book as time goes on. If all that is found is these few phrases here and there, my guess again is that she had a moment of anxiety and wanted to make sure she got the voice/dialgoue really right and went back and sprinkled in those few phrases here and there (I like jadedmetaphor's use of gracenotes). Again, this was a mistake -- in so many ways! She ought to have trusted her own writing.

But if there's more and more lines, plot points, maybe material from other books, then well...my theory still makes sense to me... but then it really makes me wonder if she could write at all.

On a different note, why do people plagiarize and cheat? I have come across others who have done both -- often very smart, capable students who don't need to, and it baffles me every time. They're people who even brag about it afterwards, as if they've outsmarted everyone else. Someone else mentioned mental issues in a past thread. I'm not sure if that applies to Viswanathan, but certainly that's a component for some people -- a weird kind of thrill-seeking.


Title: Re: How Opal Mehta got plagiarized...
Post by: Mrs. Jones on April 24, 2006, 07:02 AM
Springfever,

I agree with you completely.  English as a second language will make writing dialogue very tricky.  I, for one, lean heavily on Mark Twain to get me through those trouble-spots.  JUST KIDDING!

My point is, you'd think an editor would have AT LEAST seen writing samples, especially of dialogue, before signing such a hefty contract.  

If she had trouble with dialogue while she was writing this book, it's not as though that problem crept up on her.  It had to have been there all along ... maybe she got away with it in HS English classes, and they even called her brilliant!  

Really, what editor do you know who wouldn't reject work based on dialogue that didn't quite cut it?  Either, all her writing samples previous to this experience were doctored, or ... well, I don't know.  

I don't think this type of behavior happens in a vacuum.  For many people it's a pattern of behavior.  A crutch they've become dependent on.

My biggest question:  How many blueborders got rejected so they could publisher her books and pay that advance?

Any guesses?

Title: Re: How Opal Mehta got plagiarized...
Post by: Pickles on April 24, 2006, 07:04 AM
Why do people cheat and plagiarize?

Well the kid who plagiarized me was my former roommate's brother. I suspect he just needed to round out an assignment, and my poetry helped him win an award. All I asked for was a reprint, and I had to threaten legal action to get that. Ummm...I'm editing this to add that my issue was with the college adminstration, not my friend's brother. It got hairy, and then with other plagiarism cases cropping up the same year, the entire state university system was involved. They wanted me to go away so I wouldn't embarrass the school, and I refused to go away.


The person who plagiarized my friend. I don't know. It still baffles me. Maybe she wanted the recognition of the award. I think the person thought she lifted something so obscure nobody would know. Seriously, if you lift something from a five year old publication from the opposite end of the state you probably, aren't expecting the author's close bud to be attending your college. And that's what happened. I found the article about it recently, and grinned when I read the line, "It is still unclear how (name of author) obtained a copy of the (name of college publication.) Tee-hee---ME!

Of course this is very small potatoes, but I suspect it is very rampant. Well, I know it is.

Title: Re: How Opal Mehta got plagiarized...
Post by: sbk(linda) on April 24, 2006, 07:37 AM
We've all been trying to figure out why on earth she would do this. Now that I've had time to think about it and read the articles about how she got noticed, I think it makes sense. What if...

She was writing a book for herself, probably with the hopes of someday publishing, but she hadn't really planned on letting anyone read it yet. She used the words from the other book because she didn't think anyone else would see it (still something she shouldn't have done, though). Then when her advisor asked to read the book, she panicked and thought, "what are the odds the advisor has read the 'other book'?" and figured that since it was 'only' an advisor, it should be okay. I'm willing to bet  she never dreamed in a million years that it would snowball and end up being sent to a publisher in the end.  She was probably worried that it was the stuff that wasn't hers that had attracted them in the fist place. So she would be too scared to say anything, too scared to change it, and she decided to sail through and just hope that no one would notice.

How's that for a theory?

If it's true, does this excuse what she did? Absolutely not. Am I trying to make excuses for her. Definitely not. But I remember what it's like to be young and naive, afraid to speak up when the adults around me have strong ideas and opinions... I wonder if she even tried to change it but someone told her the way she had it before had been better-- that she should leave it the way it was (not knowing of course what that meant).
Title: Re: How Opal Mehta got plagiarized...
Post by: W. L. Decker on April 24, 2006, 07:47 AM
sbk, your theory is interesting. It also sounds like a good story. Would it be fiction or non-fiction. ;D
Title: Re: How Opal Mehta got plagiarized...
Post by: Audiate on April 24, 2006, 07:59 AM
There's one other possible reason for doing this...

...publicity.

Look at how much it's got us talking!
I'm not saying I believe that's why she did it... but I it's a possibility.  :-[ It's already garnered extra interest in the book.
Title: Re: How Opal Mehta got plagiarized...
Post by: Jen on April 24, 2006, 08:14 AM

I understand the argument.  But, if she had such trouble, why would she stand out enough for Little, Brown to offer her (at 17) a two-book contract that any of us would slobber over?  Developing an authentic voice takes time and mileage on the keyboard, and in life experience. 

It just doesn't make sense to me ... and, I'll bet, now that they think about it, somebody over at Little, Brown is kicking themselves.  Perhaps 'they' thought, okay, we need a book about teens/college age girls, why not go straight to the source? A really smart, Harvard bound gal.  How many writers on the blue boards --- no matter how well they wrote as teens or in college ---- knowing what they know now at say, age 35-55, would have been able to hand over a quality product to Little, Brown at the age of 19? 


This is one of the things I was afraid of happening with this scandal.  I really don't think it's fair to put all of the weight of KV's actions on the fact that she finished the book her freshman year of college, or to start making assertions about the kind of "life experience" you need or an age you have to have reached before you can write a quality product.  I wrote Golden my freshman year of college, when I was the same age KV was when she finished Opal Mehta, and there are plenty of other teen writers who wrote good, non-plagiarized books when they were even younger. You can talk about pressure all you want, but when it comes right down to it, youth isn't an excuse for this, and it's not the only driving factor either.

As for why Little, Brown shelled out such a large advance for the book- my guess would be to create buzz.  These days, an author in his/her late teens isn't the kind of media draw it used to be, because a lot of teens have been there, done that- Amelia Atwater-Rhodes, Christopher Paolini, Ned Vizzini... if LB had given their young author a standard-sized advance, she wouldn't have gotten nearly the media coverage that she did.  In this case, a large advance was a marketing tool- an expensive one, yes, but also a really effective one, because they could have given her a ten thousand dollars for each book and then spent 240,000 dollars on promotion for each book and still ended up with less media fanfare than KV got because of the size of her advance.  If LB decided to put marketing power behind the book before they bought it, offering a large advance makes a lot of sense from a marketing perspective.
Title: Re: How Opal Mehta got plagiarized...
Post by: dawn on April 24, 2006, 08:28 AM
The article that gives further comparison in the Crimson really makes me feel that this was done because she needed quotes to round out her lacking manuscript, and now that I know the story of how she got her amazing deal, she was probably under a lot of pressure to finish the novel and just started plugging quotes in and changing them slightly. No excuses, but I feel really embarassed for her.

This serves as a reminder for me that writing (or plagiarizing) for money, especially in a genre you're not naturally inclined to write in is a bad, bad idea.
Title: Re: How Opal Mehta got plagiarized...
Post by: sbk(linda) on April 24, 2006, 08:57 AM
From what I read, the novel was sold when she was 17 based on four chapters. She was trying to finish the novel at the end of her freshman year in college.

right. i had forgotten about the fact it wasn't finished until her freshman year. hhhmmm... so much for that theory. Too bad, cuz i really liked it too.
Title: Re: How Opal Mehta got plagiarized...
Post by: sheela chari on April 24, 2006, 09:09 AM
Wow, this thread is generating so much conversation!

Just wanted to say that I didn't mean I was questioning KV's command of the English language, or even her ability to write dialogue. It's possible that she was close, just not quite there. Or even, she felt she wasn't quite there. It's a question of degrees, not absolutes.

I also wanted to agree with Jen who said that we shouldn't use this scandal to suggest that other writers her age aren't capable of handling the same kind of stress and producing a good book. She was young, but she was still old enough to know what plagiarism is. I remember as a freshman in college, that idea of plagiarism was drilled into our heads. My school also worked on an honor code (ie we had no proctors during finals -- it was all handled through the honor code system). 

So...this is one of those things where I want to stop reading about the scandal and get on with my own writing, but I CANNOT stop! I can't help feeling sorry for her, and that's what keeps me wanting to read more. I think we have another movie on our hands here!
Title: Re: How Opal Mehta got plagiarized...
Post by: sbk(linda) on April 24, 2006, 09:18 AM
There's one other possible reason for doing this...

...publicity.

Look at how much it's got us talking!
I'm not saying I believe that's why she did it... but I it's a possibility.  :-[ It's already garnered extra interest in the book.

I was thinking about this too. It seems pretty darn risky, though. After potential lawsuits and severe public humiliation, where's the real payoff? What kind of person would want that kind of publicity? Or the risk of being sued and losing everything? Wouldn't this put her education at risk as well?

No, I don't think she ever figured on anyone finding out.

UNLESS! KV spoke with McCafferty (sp?) and they plotted this together. M promised not to sue but they will both benefit from increased publicity and attention. Okay, that's a little far fetched even for me. I guess I'm just having a tough time accepting that a girl with so much potential and promise would throw everything away so easily. The whole situation is so sad.

*sigh*

I've got to go clean my house and stop obsessing now.  :eh:
Title: Re: How Opal Mehta got plagiarized...
Post by: Jaina on April 24, 2006, 10:14 AM
You know you're really in the news when your headline hits the AOL "welcome" screen.  It had this link to a copy of the Boston Globe article:

http://news.aol.com/entertainment/articles/_a/mehta-has-passages-similar-to-sloppy/20060424072409990001
Title: Re: How Opal Mehta got plagiarized...
Post by: kabarson on April 24, 2006, 10:37 AM
Reputations are tough to repair. We may never know if it was intentional or not. Or why she did it. But forever on, she will be known as dishonest. That's tough--especially being so young. It's obvious that she's used to being on top of the gene pool and thought of highly by others. Whether it was an honest mistake or huge deception, it's all catching up to her. 

:faint: 

 And who's going to ever take her seriously again? That would be hard to swallow.
Kelly
Title: Re: How Opal Mehta got plagiarized...
Post by: andracill on April 24, 2006, 10:59 AM
I agree, Kelly...she's sunk now.  In a way, although I feel for her if she truly was simply careless (after all, how many of us have made careless mistakes before?), I hope other young people get something from this -- not to say that all writers won't, regardless of age, but reading about her has brought back so many memories of students I taught who truly thought they were above the law.  They were intelligent or gifted, and they had the attitude that others' rules didn't apply to them.  So I hope this is really hit hard in the schools once her consequences are determined!  Not necessarily even focusing on plagiarism, but rather the idea that intelligence doesn't excuse you from societal expectations.  :sb  Did I sound like a teacher again??  :uhuh

Anyway, I do feel for her...no matter why she did this, she's miserable now.
Title: Re: How Opal Mehta got plagiarized...
Post by: jadedmetaphor on April 24, 2006, 12:12 PM
I must be REALLY coldhearted, because if the author did willingly plagiarize (which seems likely, to me), I don't feel sorry for her. Of course, I also don't feel any ill will against her besides wanting to see this issue rectified for MM and a fair solution. And, I imagine her writing career is indeed sunk, which I think it should be.

It's interesting how several people (not only on this forum) have mentioned her being a smart Harvard student and expressions of sympathy in the same breath. It seems as though people assume that since she was such a capable girl she *must* have done this out of pressure. Personally, I'm not so sure that's why or that it even matters. Does her pressure differ from an older, established writer's pressure to put out a better selling novel? Does it differ from my pressure to succeed after letting my family support me to write fulltime this past year? Does it differ from the pressure you've felt? Other writers face immense pressure without stealing. Sure KV was young, and obviously not stupid- She accepted admission to Harvard. She accepted a half million dollar publishing contract. IMHO, with those, she also accepted responsibility.

Jen makes a good point- there are plenty of young, talented authors who have gained their spoils through honest work. Feeling sorry for KV, imho, is patronizing/insulting to the other young authors who've earned their success.

I don't feel any more sorry for KV than I feel for Vanilla Ice, K-Fed (who recently "sampled" a track from Dolby's Blinded me with Science), Richard Ashcroft (who took from the Rolling Stones), the student who took Pickles' poem, or anyone else who steals another artist's work. If the inverse were true, and MM had stolen from KV, would people feel as sorry for MM? I don't think they would.

Further, I'm sure she has felt a lot of pressure as a Harvard student, but if she plagiarized a term paper we all know there would be severe consequences (even if it was "unintentional"). If that were the case, I wouldn't feel any more sorry for her than the other students so many of you have mentioned. Quite frankly, as a recent student and teacher, I have no sympathy for cheaters.  I, personally, don't see why this should be any different.

* Note, to me, the plagiarism seemed strong- if this were a case where an author had accidentally copied one or two lines, or something similar, I might feel more sympathy for that person, since it would seem their stealing was minor and completely unintentional. To me, she took a lot of passages and it seems like it had to be intentional. My point is I feel her reasons are inconsequential.

Title: Re: How Opal Mehta got plagiarized...
Post by: Jaina on April 24, 2006, 12:42 PM
I just want to be clear on what I mean when I say I feel sorry for KV, or anyone else who plagiarizes.  I DO feel bad, in my heart, for anyone who finds themselves doing this.  I don't know how else to express it.  I don't excuse them.  I don't feel like they're justified.  I don't feel like we should "go easy" on them or just give them a hug, or whatever.  But I can't help how I feel about their situation.

When I taught Fresh. comp. I think I flunked at LEAST one kid each semester for plagiarism.  My strangest case was once when I was actually babysitting for another professor's kids.  The prof. gave me a ride home and on the way we were discussing our composition classes.  I was giving mine all the standard boring assignments, while he was taking a more unusual approach.  He started telling me about some paper he'd assigned that had some convoluted title I can't remember now... something like "The Dichotomy of Popular Culture and ..." blah blah blah.  He wanted his students to compare and contrast something or the other and he'd been very specific about the content.

Anyway, minutes later I got home to my apartment and decided to grade some papers--my students' essays.  FIRST one--right on top of the stack--was titled "The Dichotomy of Popular Culture..." and something-something.  Yeah, one of my students had just turned in her roommate's essay for Professor Whathisname's class to me.  I'm not sure what I would have thought of her odd subject matter if I hadn't just had the conversation with the professor two minutes prior.  I called him up and he found the same one in his stack.

I had given my students plenty of warning, verbally, in writing and all that--plagiarism meant failing my class.  I pulled her aside the next week and give her the news.  She cried.  I had failed other students before (and I've failed them since), but the crying is the worst.  I felt sorry for this girl and her poor decision, as I always do when people do dumb stuff they can't take back (speaking as a person who has done plenty of stupid things).

Didn't mean I didn't still give her an F.  I think it's fine to have a heart, long as you don't let it interfere with justice.  So, yes, I do feel bad for KV.  Even if someone isn't the least bit sorry and gloats about their misdeeds, I still feel bad for them.  That's just how I am.
Title: Re: How Opal Mehta got plagiarized...
Post by: lurban on April 24, 2006, 12:49 PM
I hear you Jaina.  I had to do this, too, in my teaching days.  And I feel sorry for KV, too.  Intentionally or inadvertantly, she made a big fat mistake that will most likely have long lasting effects.  That's rotten.  It just is.

And since somebody else brought up Clinton's affair -- I felt sorry for Ms. Lewinsky, too.  Young kid, dumb move, lifelong consequences.
Title: Re: How Opal Mehta got plagiarized...
Post by: HB on April 24, 2006, 12:58 PM
Wow, so much to read in this thread, and so many theories. (And so many comments about to be made by MOI! ;D )

Although I firmly believe that amazing coincidences can be had in books by authors who hadn’t read each other, in this case, with so many random little quirks that are the same (as opposed to one big similar plot), it looks like the author had definitely read the MM books. Whether the plagiarism was deliberate is another story.

1. Jen has a point about the amount of time those quotes would save her. It would probably take her MORE time to write herself into the situation where she could use the quote. So would she do it intentionally? The book got a generally good review in the earlier Crimson article that was linked here so it seems that she has the talent to write 300+ pages, so what would the point be of slowly…painfully going through other books looking for a few cool lines to steal? Or is it more likely that she absorbed those novels and subconsciously added what she thought were brilliant, original ideas to her own manuscript without even a pause in her typing? I do think other YA authors should read her book and see if there is anything that sounds disturbingly familiar. There’s a good chance others will recognize lines as well. (Hey, no fair! That gets her more publicity!)

2. I too wondered whether the book packager might have had something to do with the similarities. I’m not saying I definitely think that’s what happened, but if they admit that this book required more massaging than other books they’ve accepted, I do wonder which parts were written by her and which by the packager. Hmmm.

3. 170 specialty stores? When pulling a random number out of head, the number that appears most often for me isn’t so random after all (42.)  Yes, I’m a geek. I know the number well enough to know where I get it from so if it’s for literary use, I change it. (For the non-geeks in the crowd, the number figures prominently in Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.) I can picture the author writing a scene where the MC gets dragged around to all the stores.  It’s not a unique plot point to MM. How many movie montage scenes have there been where the ugly duckling gets transformed into a swan by trying on multiple articles of clothing, all set to cool music? So anyway, she’s writing the scene. How many department stores should the MC go to? Well, there’s 4-5 she can think of so she’ll use one of those numbers. And specialty stores? Let’s generate a completely random, ridiculously high number of stores. 200? No, that just sounds exaggerated and not so funny. Oh! How about 170? It’s so specific, like she actually went to that many and counted. Why 170? She doesn’t know why that number jumped into her head, but somehow, it’s perfect. Of course it seems perfect. The exact phrase is hanging around her subconscious.

(ASIDE: when I first typed this, I accidentally typed 176…twice, which I consider much more random and funny than 170. I think both authors should plagiarize from me. Then again, maybe my random number generator stole 176 from someplace else.  :eek5: )


Food for Thought:

I have wondered in the past whether some of the best authors are simply people who have a superior subconscious memory and can reach into their vast internal library to find the perfect turns of phrase they require to say exactly what they want at the time. How much of what we write is 100% unique? How many times have you had the muse flowing and you just write like crazy. When you’re done, you look at your story with amazement. You didn’t even know you had that idea inside you. Ever consider that maybe it wasn’t originally your idea?

I recently read a book about the power of the subconscious mind. I can’t remember the author or the title – that information is apparently buried in my subconscious mind. Anyway, it states that everything we’ve ever seen, read, or heard is stored up there in your brain someplace. If you have a gut feeling about something that turns out to be right, it isn’t because you’re psychic. It’s because although your conscious mind didn’t know enough to predict the future, your subconscious mind had enough information to logically figure out what would happen and trigger what you think is just a “gut-feeling”. People who can harness their subconscious and allow separate ideas to connect into something new are those who come up with amazing inventions, $$$-creating business ideas, and yes, genius novels.


Regarding non-fiction plagiarism:

You know the old saying:  Copy one and it’s plagiarism. Copy many and it’s a research paper. Way back in my day, English papers were 100% out my own fertile mind. (NOTE: The phrase ‘fertile mind’ appears 210,000 times in Google – I’m not very original) I didn’t use Cole’s / Cliff’s notes on principle and it was pre-Internet so other than ‘borrowing’ an older friend’s essay (which we all knew was wrong), there were no other sources available.  However, in four years of psychology we only did a few original experiments. All the other papers we wrote were document reviews which involved searching all the relevant journals and summarizing the results.  Sure the introduction and conclusion were in our own words, but everything else was either quoted or paraphrased from the original research papers. I can remember attempting to change words in factual sentences. Eventually I’d decide it was stupid to even try and I’d quote it instead. Not all that different than what SBK’s son did with his non-fiction paper. Then again, he broke the first rule by copying one instead of copying many.  ;D


Irony:

I went to the plagiarism link that Anne Marie provided. One of the links there sent me to an interesting article on catching plagiarizers. At the bottom of the article? Multiple Google ads for college paper mills.   :banghead:  :banghead:  :banghead:
Title: Re: How Opal Mehta got plagiarized...
Post by: katep on April 24, 2006, 01:13 PM
I think every angle has been covered so I'll just say:  What a smart, thoughtful, eloquent group. 

Title: Re: How Opal Mehta got plagiarized...
Post by: steph on April 24, 2006, 03:57 PM
I must be REALLY coldhearted, because if the author did willingly plagiarize (which seems likely, to me), I don't feel sorry for her. Of course, I also don't feel any ill will against her besides wanting to see this issue rectified for MM and a fair solution. And, I imagine her writing career is indeed sunk, which I think it should be.





What's wrong with the fact that I empathaize with  a young girl who is facing quite a large problem? Do I condone what she did - no.

Interesting that you feel that at 19 her career is sunk. Someone earlier had mentioned Janet Dailey, and I just quickly plugged her name with the word plagiarsm into google and hit upon a forum dated April 28, 2001 discussing that it had only been 4 years since her plagiarism case was settled and she had just received a 7 figure deal. This is where I empathize with KV. Why should her transgression be dealt with any more harsh than any other author caught in the same fashion has suffered? Because she received so much attention from her 500k deal? Because there is a certain amount of envy/jealousy towards a such a young author receiving this deal? I don't think that a person is sunk at 19 for this type of error. She has her entire life ahead of her.

I don't think it is patronizing to other young authors to empathize with any human being who is clearly suffering.





** just as a disclaimer, as much as I hate to admit it, as a person in my late thirties I am not a 'young author'.
Title: Re: How Opal Mehta got plagiarized...
Post by: Margherita on April 24, 2006, 04:18 PM
I must be REALLY coldhearted, because if the author did willingly plagiarize (which seems likely, to me), I don't feel sorry for her. Of course, I also don't feel any ill will against her besides wanting to see this issue rectified for MM and a fair solution. And, I imagine her writing career is indeed sunk, which I think it should be.

Well put.

My sympathy is reserved for the author who was actually wronged here.  ;)
Title: Re: How Opal Mehta got plagiarized...
Post by: steph on April 24, 2006, 04:32 PM
Umm... I sympathize with MM, but I'm not sure she will suffer. If anything I think it will bring her 2 books back into the limelight - as it should.

Not to mention a nice chunk of change from the offending publisher :EmoticonDollar:
Title: Re: How Opal Mehta got plagiarized...
Post by: Margherita on April 24, 2006, 04:38 PM
Umm... I sympathize with MM, but I'm not sure she will suffer. If anything I think it will bring her 2 books back into the limelight - as it should.

It's very true that she won't suffer financially.  Not all hurts are money-related, though, right? ;D  Being victimized in this way stinks.
Title: Re: How Opal Mehta got plagiarized...
Post by: steph on April 24, 2006, 04:45 PM
Yes, I agree, and I think she has handled herself admirably. Her book is from 2001 I believe. Perhaps they are no longer in print - I'm guessing there will be a re-print.

If any one was going to steal my thoughts I'd want it to be someone in the spotlight :momkid:.

Put it this way - who knows how many other peons have lifted work from her two books...i'll bet it happens more than we'd like to think, this way I only see positive for MM.

It's called a 5 year marketing plan :reading2:
Title: Re: How Opal Mehta got plagiarized...
Post by: Jaclyn Dolamore on April 24, 2006, 04:50 PM
I feel that it isn't my place to judge her.  She may have stolen the passages, and if she did, that's lousy of her.  But maybe she didn't.  I love L. M. Montgomery and I've caught myself using phrases from the Emily books before because I've read them soooo many times.  Sometimes I don't realize until later.  I wonder if she would get so much criticism if she wasn't young and with a huge deal?  I don't really want to condemn her without knowing if it's intentional.
Title: Re: How Opal Mehta got plagiarized...
Post by: almarrone on April 24, 2006, 05:00 PM
http://www.thecrimson.com/article.aspx?ref=512999

Here's Kaavya's response to the allegations.
Title: Re: How Opal Mehta got plagiarized...
Post by: sbk(linda) on April 24, 2006, 05:07 PM
http://www.thecrimson.com/article.aspx?ref=512999

Here's Kaavya's response to the allegations.

Well, really. What else is she going to say? I did it on purpose? Right.

Sorry, I'm not buying it.
Title: Re: How Opal Mehta got plagiarized...
Post by: almarrone on April 24, 2006, 05:09 PM
I was shocked Little, Brown intends on rereleasing a Sloppy Firsts free version of Opal in the future!  I guess they have a huge investment to protect.
Title: Re: How Opal Mehta got plagiarized...
Post by: almarrone on April 24, 2006, 05:14 PM
Opal's rank on Amazon has gotten better throughout the day--and Amazon yanked some reviewer comments mentioning the plagiarism.
Title: Re: How Opal Mehta got plagiarized...
Post by: jadedmetaphor on April 24, 2006, 05:18 PM

What's wrong with the fact that I empathaize with  a young girl who is facing quite a large problem? Do I condone what she did - no.

Interesting that you feel that at 19 her career is sunk. Someone earlier had mentioned Janet Dailey, and I just quickly plugged her name with the word plagiarsm into google and hit upon a forum dated April 28, 2001 discussing that it had only been 4 years since her plagiarism case was settled and she had just received a 7 figure deal. This is where I empathize with KV. Why should her transgression be dealt with any more harsh than any other author caught in the same fashion has suffered? Because she received so much attention from her 500k deal? Because there is a certain amount of envy/jealousy towards a such a young author receiving this deal? I don't think that a person is sunk at 19 for this type of error. She has her entire life ahead of her.

I don't think it is patronizing to other young authors to empathize with any human being who is clearly suffering. In fact, the comment I believe Jen took offense to was, in my opinion, far more patronizing and lumped all 'young authors' together as not having developed a 'voice' yet. What???





** just as a disclaimer, as much as I hate to admit it, as a person in my late thirties I am not a 'young author'.


It's patronizing for the same reason it's patronizing to say that a minority who robs someone shouldn't be held to the same standard as a white person. Holding them to a lesser standard implies they are not capable of meeting the ethical standard others can meet (and, FWIW, I am a minority and so is my husband). There are many young authors who can not only meet standards of ethical writing, but excel in doing so (I like to think I'm one of them, although 23 may be outside the edge of what's considered "young"). Claiming her age as a reason to feel sorry for her (you, yourself, referred to her often as "young") insults me because it implies that I, as a young writer, am  incapable of the same work older writers create. I don't think age should have anything to do with it.

Also, empathy and sympathy are very different. Do I empathize with her? Yes. I can understand why she may have done this (whether intentional or not) and how she must feel now. Do I feel sorry for her (sympathize)? Not really. When I put myself in both authors' shoes, I agree with Margherita- MM is the only one who seems wronged.
Title: Re: How Opal Mehta got plagiarized...
Post by: jadedmetaphor on April 24, 2006, 05:24 PM
I was shocked Little, Brown intends on rereleasing a Sloppy Firsts free version of Opal in the future!  I guess they have a huge investment to protect.

I'm surprised, too. Apparently, this has happened at their house before. Jason Epstein's debut novel, Wild Oats, plagiarized passages from another author's work. It ruined his book writing career but he found success later in Hollywood.*

* Info paraphrased from:
http://www.mediabistro.com/galleycat/

Not sure how to link to the exact article. It's titled "Oops, did she write it again?" from Apr. 24 and refers to the Opal Mehta situation.
Title: Re: How Opal Mehta got plagiarized...
Post by: Jen on April 24, 2006, 05:30 PM
I read Kaavya's response, and I must admit, I'm a little skeptical- it's not that I don't believe she could have internalized parts of the book and then accidentally written them into hers, but I become much more incredulous when the timeframe of reading the books is brought into it.  If she'd said that she read the books WHILE she was writing Opal, that would be one thing, but even though she got her book deal while still in high school, sources have her working on it primarily while in college, and her quote gives me the impression that she's claiming to have read it long before writing her own book (maybe that's just me?).  While the memory is a funny thing, I really don't think it's funny ENOUGH that you would pull MULITPLE phrases almost verbatim from a book you read several years previously...
Title: Re: How Opal Mehta got plagiarized...
Post by: steph on April 24, 2006, 05:37 PM
Jademetaphor

My referring to her as young does not negate the fact that she is an author, I use it in this thread to make a point. 

And thanks for the analogy, but I'll stand by my assertion that it does not patronize any other person to empathize with another human being. I don't feel sorry for her merely for being 19 - I empathize with her period. Thanks for allowing me to clarify that.

What I  am saying is 19 is far too young to be sent out to pasture.
Title: Re: How Opal Mehta got plagiarized...
Post by: andracill on April 24, 2006, 05:50 PM
All in all, I'm thinking the consequences are not going to be strong enough to keep other aspiring authors from 'unintentionally' doing something very similar...too bad.  I don't want to see this girl's life ruined over this; but I do want some kind of serious consequence to show others that this just isn't the right thing to do.  And I agree with Jen that it's unlikely that she told the 'whole' truth in her rebuttal...probably far more likely that she didn't think she'd get caught (or hoped she wouldn't), and now she's falling back on the best possible excuse for what's happened.  She reminds me a bit of a student I had...wonderful girl, very nice, hard-working -- but not afraid to do whatever it took to get to where she wanted to be.  *shrug*  That's just my take, though.  It's not like I've met her or anything.  I wonder if there's any way to give some of her advance to MM...now that would be a lesson!
Title: Re: How Opal Mehta got plagiarized...
Post by: sbk(linda) on April 24, 2006, 05:52 PM
What I  am saying is 19 is far too young to be sent out to pasture - I don't think her career is over by far.

I think it really depends on how much publicity this all generates. If enough people learn about the situation (I'm talking household name here), she will ALWAYS be known as the girl that cheated. Her writing career will be over before it starts. I know I will never buy any book she writes because in my eyes, she's dishonest and I wouldn't be able to trust her words.
Title: Re: How Opal Mehta got plagiarized...
Post by: Jen on April 24, 2006, 06:00 PM
I do really empathize with KV- not because I think she's at all the injured party in this (obvious MM is, and she has my full-on sympathy, though I hope this will boost her novel sales in the long run) or because I sympathize with the "pressure" KV was under or think her age is an excuse for this happening- I don't.  I empathize with KV, because even though I don't think a young author is any less capable or culpable in this situation, I do think that a nineteen year old is likely less equipped to deal with the consequences.  She's old enough to know better, but is she old enough to handle being a scandal picked up by the AP and blasted all over the world?  I know some people will say that if you do the crime, you do the time, but I can't help but think that this will be harder for her than it would be for someone older.

She's living in a college dorm, and her college newspaper just printed an expose.  She's the person to laugh and whisper about, and people are GLAD that something happened to knock her off her pedestal.  The college environment is surprisingly conducive to a high school type cruelty, and while the real world may be as well, it's not as concentrated.  Maybe I'm wrong, but I can't help but think that the scale of the impact on her daily life of this fallout is going to be much, much bigger than it would be for someone in a later stage of their life.

I'm not excusing her.  I'm not saying that what she did was right, or that she shouldn't be punished.  I'm not saying that she didn't bring this media circus down on herself, or that her age somehow excuses it.  I'm just saying that, even at twenty-two, nineteen seems awfully young to me to be dealing with this.  I'm not thinking in terms of career plans (if no one wants to publish her again, that's just tough), but I'm thinking of her personal life, and I'm afraid that the personal day-to-day fallout might be really huge, and I feel really sorry for that.
Title: Re: How Opal Mehta got plagiarized...
Post by: steph on April 24, 2006, 06:02 PM
I respect that view SBK. I had no intention of buying the book to begin with, and I certainly wouldn't go purchase the book because she plagiarized :uhuh.

Clearly others will though. Just took a  quick look at Amazon. It shows Janet Dailey's latest is due out July/06. Hasn't seemed to hurt her any.

Hasn't hurt James Frey's numbers either.
Title: Re: How Opal Mehta got plagiarized...
Post by: steph on April 24, 2006, 06:05 PM
I do really empathize with KV- not because I think she's at all the injured party in this (obvious MM is, and she has my full-on sympathy, though I hope this will boost her novel sales in the long run) or because I sympathize with the "pressure" KV was under or think her age is an excuse for this happening- I don't.  I empathize with KV, because even though I don't think a young author is any less capable or culpable in this situation, I do think that a nineteen year old is likely less equipped to deal with the consequences.  She's old enough to know better, but is she old enough to handle being a scandal picked up by the AP and blasted all over the world?  I know some people will say that if you do the crime, you do the time, but I can't help but think that this will be harder for her than it would be for someone older.

She's living in a college dorm, and her college newspaper just printed an expose.  She's the person to laugh and whisper about, and people are GLAD that something happened to knock her off her pedestal.  The college environment is surprisingly conducive to a high school type cruelty, and while the real world may be as well, it's not as concentrated.  Maybe I'm wrong, but I can't help but think that the scale of the impact on her daily life of this fallout is going to be much, much bigger than it would be for someone in a later stage of their life.

I'm not excusing her.  I'm not saying that what she did was right, or that she shouldn't be punished.  I'm not saying that she didn't bring this media circus down on herself, or that her age somehow excuses it.  I'm just saying that, even at twenty-two, nineteen seems awfully young to me to be dealing with this.  I'm not thinking in terms of career plans (if no one wants to publish her again, that's just tough), but I'm thinking of her personal life, and I'm afraid that the personal day-to-day fallout might be really huge, and I feel really sorry for that.
e
Thanks Jen, you explained what I was trying to get across much more succinct than I. I guess that's why you are published ;)
Title: Re: How Opal Mehta got plagiarized...
Post by: TamraW on April 24, 2006, 06:24 PM
Here is the link to a statement made by Viswanathan regarding the similarities . . .

http://www.thecrimson.com/article.aspx?ref=512999
Title: Re: How Opal Mehta got plagiarized...
Post by: jadedmetaphor on April 24, 2006, 06:39 PM
Thanks Jen, you explained what I was trying to get across much more succinct than I. I guess that's why you are published ;)

I'll bet that's what KV said when she read MM's book. Kidding, of course.

Title: Re: How Opal Mehta got plagiarized...
Post by: fuego80027 on April 24, 2006, 06:42 PM
I just found this thread. and have done a lot of reading here. I do wonder if there is somesort of program that a ms could be run through to catch copy catters ( is that even a word?) And the original book I wonder how many people have gone out and read it?
Title: Re: How Opal Mehta got plagiarized...
Post by: steph on April 24, 2006, 06:43 PM
I'll bet that's what KV said when she read MM's book. Kidding, of course.



Yes, I'm part of Jen's 5 year marketing plan!

After 5 years when I receive my 7 figure advance (and for 1 book no less), I'll refer to Jen's books... and well you know the rest.

I will of course have an easier time as I will have 4 books to pilfer from
Title: Re: How Opal Mehta got plagiarized...
Post by: picturebookwriter on April 24, 2006, 08:01 PM
You know, there's a picture book about a dog at obedience school, which I have never read, that sounds a lot like an old Charlie Brown cartoon. I always thought it odd.
Title: Re: How Opal Mehta got plagiarized...
Post by: steph on April 24, 2006, 08:21 PM
Well, how absolutely perfect for MM - she may not have received a 500k advance but hey the publicity is priceless and just in time for her

book 'Charmed Thirds' which also hit the shelves in April 11,2006...hmmmm.
Title: Re: How Opal Mehta got plagiarized...
Post by: Karen K on April 24, 2006, 08:25 PM
It's patronizing for the same reason it's patronizing to say that a minority who robs someone shouldn't be held to the same standard as a white person. Holding them to a lesser standard implies they are not capable of meeting the ethical standard others can meet (and, FWIW, I am a minority and so is my husband). There are many young authors who can not only meet standards of ethical writing, but excel in doing so (I like to think I'm one of them, although 23 may be outside the edge of what's considered "young"). Claiming her age as a reason to feel sorry for her (you, yourself, referred to her often as "young") insults me because it implies that I, as a young writer, am  incapable of the same work older writers create. I don't think age should have anything to do with it.

Agent Kristin Nelson has some very valid points about young writers on her blog: http://pubrants.blogspot.com/2006_03_01_pubrants_archive.html

Here's a particularly relevant quote:

"Your age doesn’t really matter to me. Just your writing ability. If you’re under 18, no need to declare so in your query letter. It’s unprofessional for one. Two, it’s irrelevant. I won’t think you a prodigy or lend you an extra dose of sympathy or be more lenient and request a partial. It won’t do any of those things. I still want a well-written, professional query that shows me you’ve done your research about this business and you’re ready to be serious and be taken seriously."

Karen


Title: Re: How Opal Mehta got plagiarized...
Post by: kabarson on April 25, 2006, 03:56 AM
Something that's been gnawing at me is whether or not it was intentional. (I don't really care how old she is. To me, that's irrelevant.) When I was younger, before my kids were born and sucked away what brain cells I had left, I had a photographic memory. When I read something, I remembered it forever. There are still odd, random fragments inside my head. So part of me wonders if a gifted student might have a photographic memory too.

Plus, when I hear a phrase that I find to be especially brilliant, I chew on it and think about it, and often add it to my vocabulary or knowledge base--to be called upon later. (These are quotes from famous people--I memorize who said it too, beautifully written descriptions, anything really.) I love words and can always appreciate it when they're masterfully crafted into an image or feeling. 

However, when I read the passages that were similar, they weren't similar, they were exact--word for word in some cases. And they weren't just word for word in a phrase or two--nobody would probably even notice that. I would be curious if there are others, in her other works that aren't her own. If a brilliant writer just copies from other brilliant writers, is she still a brilliant writer or just a brilliant typist? I wonder...
Kelly
Title: Re: How Opal Mehta got plagiarized...
Post by: Liz on April 25, 2006, 04:05 AM
Here's a link to a Crimson article - with KV's apology

http://www.thecrimson.com/article.aspx?ref=512999
Title: Re: How Opal Mehta got plagiarized...
Post by: Lenzi on April 25, 2006, 06:08 AM
If a brilliant writer just copies from other brilliant writers, is she still a brilliant writer or just a brilliant typist? I wonder...
Kelly

Shakespeare did it all the time, and most folks think he was still a pretty sharp fella......
Title: Re: How Opal Mehta got plagiarized...
Post by: Shoshi on April 25, 2006, 06:18 AM
There's an article about this in today's NY Times.
Title: Re: How Opal Mehta got plagiarized...
Post by: Anne Marie on April 25, 2006, 06:26 AM
There's an article about this in our itty-bitty local daily (picked up from AP, of course).

My thought this morning is this:  I'm glad the mistakes I made at 17, 18 or 19 were not big enough to make national news.  But I did make them, and plenty of them.

AM
Title: Re: How Opal Mehta got plagiarized...
Post by: Jaina on April 25, 2006, 06:30 AM
http://in.rediff.com/news/2006/apr/25ajp.htm

I have to say, she does sound pretty ESL in the quotes.  She says it's was a "hard procession" (not process) and that no one else in her family had shown an "inclination to be creative side."  Unless these are misquotes.

Before anyone gets offended, I'm not trying to "pick" on her or anyone who might not have English as their first language!  My own mother is from South America and even though she's lived in the US for longer than her childhood, teen and college years in her home country, she still has problems with some English idioms.  She always has me look over anything "official" she writes to make sure it's correct, and she's one well-educated lady!  Now that I think about it, she also went to college at 15, hmm . . .
Title: Re: How Opal Mehta got plagiarized...
Post by: Jaina on April 25, 2006, 06:32 AM
Now that I think about it, I still have problems with some English idioms!

Anyway, my point was that perhaps some of the posters on this thread were right--I don't know KV at all, but it could be that American English phrasing doesn't come naturally to her.
Title: Re: How Opal Mehta got plagiarized...
Post by: andracill on April 25, 2006, 07:19 AM
Yeah, I'd say it sounds like maybe she needed some help with dialogue -- she might have taken from more than one source, if that's the case.  It's too bad...but I also have (ha -- had!) a photographic memory, and I too always remembered the source of the words and phrases I loved...I'm sure she did too, if that's the case.  But it is too bad that she has to experience this so young...and there but for the grace of God go I.  :P
Title: Re: How Opal Mehta got plagiarized...
Post by: Jen on April 25, 2006, 07:27 AM
Another thought occured to me on how at least *some* of these "internalizations" could have happened pretty innocently.  When I write, I write the way I talk.  At the same time, though, the things I read and watch on television affect the way I talk.  I can imagine someone really liking certain phrases in a book and mentally earmarking them as things to say (like the masochistic cinnabon thing, or having to be either smart or pretty) and then, after saying them for months or years, forgetting that they didn't make them up.  This doesn't really work for all of the examples, but for some of the ones that are based on a "catchy phrase," it's believable...

The question, I guess, is whether or not it's believable that she could have done that with the catchy phrase ones, and then just plain internalized some of the others.  I'm still somewhat skeptical, but I also can't bring myself to believe that someone in her position would plagiarize with so little to gain, or that, if they decided to do it, they'd do it so BADLY.

On another note, it's come up in the articles that KV shares the copyright to Opal Mehta with 17th Street Productions, her book packager.  I think this is fairly standard with book packagers (maybe?), but it could put them into hot water as well...
Title: Re: How Opal Mehta got plagiarized...
Post by: HB on April 25, 2006, 07:57 AM
Jaina, I read that article you linked to and the writer seems to have a few problems with the English language himself. So I wouldn't assume that those quotes are necessarily correct.

I looked up one of the quotes he's attributed to her from her press release. In his article it's a sentence fragment. In other articles it isn't. (Paragraph 4)
Title: Re: How Opal Mehta got plagiarized...
Post by: Jaina on April 25, 2006, 08:00 AM
No comment.  I have no idea what you're talking about.
Title: Re: How Opal Mehta got plagiarized...
Post by: lurban on April 25, 2006, 08:04 AM
We have been calling our daughter a "silly moo" for a very long time.  I'm sure if the opportunity presented itself, I'd have used the phrase in a book without concern.  Last night, I was reading her poetry from WHERE THE SIDEWALK ENDS and there it was "silly moo."  These things happen.
Title: Re: How Opal Mehta got plagiarized...
Post by: Jaina on April 25, 2006, 08:04 AM
Just kidding, HB.  Could be that it was his problem, not hers.

P.S.--I just had to go back and fix that sentence, because I wrote "proglem."  And that is MY proglem!
Title: Re: How Opal Mehta got plagiarized...
Post by: Bella on April 25, 2006, 09:08 AM
To be honest, my first response to this was 'Oh, the poor girl.' I mean, poor MM too obviously, she's clearly the victim here and by the sounds of it, there's little doubt that these words really do belong to her (and while this is probably great publicity for her, this really isn't the sort of publicity anyone would want).
But after the girl's been feted, applauded, paid huge $$$, had the prospect of Steven Spielberg turning her book into a movie and all at the age of 19 - it's like watching a dream come true suddenly turn into a nightmare. If this mistake ruins her career, that would be very sad. After all this, it's not like she'll be copying anything ever again, after all. Plus, I wonder what this will mean for her other employment possibilities after college.

It's just a horrible situation for everyone. :(
Title: Re: How Opal Mehta got plagiarized...
Post by: Vijaya on April 25, 2006, 09:30 AM
I don't think KV's career is ruined.  She's only 19 ... and has lots of time to redeem herself.  I hope she never, ever does this again.
It's very hard for me to believe that she did this unintentionally.  If it were simply a matter of short phrases, like "silly moo," I could believe it, but not entire sentences.  And I also don't care whether she has trouble with colloquial American English.  Or if she had stress. They're all excuses.
Vijaya
ps: Oh, and this topic title bothers me ... I really want to get rid of the "got" because it's not her words that were plagiarized, rather she plagiarized.

Title: Re: How Opal Mehta got plagiarized...
Post by: Melanie on April 25, 2006, 09:49 AM
how much of this responsibility falls on the editor and publisher?  why is it that someone at the harvard paper discovered the plagiarism before the editor and publisher?  if it was a matter of them purchasing the book before it was finished, they must have seen several drafts of it, no?  did no one at LB read McCafferty's book?

strange.  :eh:
Title: Re: How Opal Mehta got plagiarized...
Post by: Lenzi on April 25, 2006, 10:00 AM


And I also don't care whether she has trouble with colloquial American English. Or if she had stress. They're all excuses.
Vijaya

But there's a difference between excusing someone's behaviour and just trying to understand it. I'm very curious about motives, intentions, circumstances, and environments that surround such actions. We don't live in a vaccum, and it is interesting to think about what drives us to do certain things....
Title: Re: How Opal Mehta got plagiarized...
Post by: Tracy Abell / Vinca on April 25, 2006, 10:09 AM
Whew!  Just read through this entire post and feel an abundance of emotions.  We all feel strongly about this issue because we're writers but it does seem to me many posts reflect an attitude of "writer first, human being second."  I've made so many horrible mistakes in my life and can't imagine having the spotlight on any of them.  Fortunately, I privately outlived those mistakes and make fewer of them as I age but this young woman's shame is front and center.  Personally, I don't feel a need to point and whisper.

Stealing someone else's words is bad but I'd rather use the tar and feathers on those whose lies/cheating resulted in the deaths of tens of thousands.   
Title: Re: How Opal Mehta got plagiarized...
Post by: sbk(linda) on April 25, 2006, 10:46 AM
Whew!  Just read through this entire post and feel an abundance of emotions.  We all feel strongly about this issue because we're writers but it does seem to me many posts reflect an attitude of "writer first, human being second."  I've made so many horrible mistakes in my life and can't imagine having the spotlight on any of them.  Fortunately, I privately outlived those mistakes and make fewer of them as I age but this young woman's shame is front and center.  Personally, I don't feel a need to point and whisper.

Stealing someone else's words is bad but I'd rather use the tar and feathers on those whose lies/cheating resulted in the deaths of tens of thousands.   
I see what you're saying Vinca, but I have to disagree. Many of us have expressed sadness for the situation and even a bit of sympathy over her plight but that doesn't change the fact that what she did was very wrong. I'm not going to baby her or accept her excuses. I might feel more sympathetic if she could be truthful and fully accept responsibility for what she did.

I say this as a human first... If you're going to make a 'mistake', be prepared to deal with whatever consequences are dealt to you (public or private). Maybe that makes me harsh but I don't care.

My son brought home a report card last month that showed a drop from an 86% to a 44% in one of his classes. When I found out he'd misplaced a project and hadn't handed it in, I did not bale him out and he did not get a lot of sympathy. He made a mistake. We discussed the need for responsibility and organization skills but I did not go running to the teacher for him, asking if there was any way he could make it up. He's going to have to deal with that mark and bring it up on his own. Harsh? Maybe.

People don't learn from their mistakes if there aren't consequences to those mistakes. KV made her choice. Now she can live with it. And I'm not whispering. This is a public forum. She's welcome to come and read my comments any time she likes.
Title: Re: How Opal Mehta got plagiarized...
Post by: Vijaya on April 25, 2006, 10:50 AM
I agree, Lenzi, that it's interesting to think about the why ... but as much as I've thought about it, I still don't understand it.  I think it boils down to fuzzy morality.  People don't distinguish between right and wrong.  I mean, as a mother of young children, I'm constantly harping on doing the right thing -- don't hit your sister, don't bite your brother, don't lie, don't cheat, be kind, do the right thing even if everyone else around you is doing the wrong thing, etc.  My hope is that is we impart a strong sense of ethics and moral values to our children so that they know when they've crossed the line.  Anyway, I digress, like Vinca.  This is a discussion about plagiarism, not terrorism or war or raising my kids.
Vijaya
Title: Re: How Opal Mehta got plagiarized...
Post by: Tracy Abell / Vinca on April 25, 2006, 11:01 AM
sbk, I didn't mean to imply these posts are whispers.  I was referring to Jen's point about the author living in the dorm on a college campus, dealing with her peers pointing and whispering.  I agree that you're entitled to write whatever you want here and I couldn't agree more that we as humans need to be accountable for our mistakes.  Each one of us. 

And Vijaya is right that this is a discussion about plagiarism but I can't help thinking it's much easier to get all wound up about the smaller stuff rather than the bigger issues.  But again, this is a writing community so plagiarism is the highest crime.  Please understand that I wasn't pointing the finger at anyone here, just making a comment with the big picture in mind.  I appreciate the thought and analysis that went into this discussion.
Title: Re: How Opal Mehta got plagiarized...
Post by: almarrone on April 25, 2006, 11:02 AM
Opal's Amazon ranking keeps getting better and better--it cracked the top 100 and is now around 74--Little Brown won't have to worry about getting the books back--the first printing will be gone in no time.
Title: Re: How Opal Mehta got plagiarized...
Post by: TamraW on April 25, 2006, 11:36 AM
And yet another article in PW daily.  It seems Random may press plagarism claims.  Here's a quote from the article:

Stuart Applebaum called Viswanaathan's explanation about how she came to use passages from McCafferty "at best disingenuous and at worst literary identity theft." He noted that there are approximately 40 cases where Opal mirrors passages from McCafferty's works. Although Applebaum declined to comment if Random will file a lawsuit against Viswanaathan, he said "Crown and Random House support our author in seeking a proper and full resolution to this matter."

And here's a link to the entire article http://www.publishersweekly.com/article/CA6327824.html

Title: Re: How Opal Mehta got plagiarized...
Post by: Jen on April 25, 2006, 12:16 PM
Yeah, and the rest of us nineteen-year-old novelists are working our tails off without the benefit of Harvard professors finagling $500,000 deals for us before we've even finished a novel.


Small point, but no Harvard professors were involved in her book deal.  She got the deal through her agent and the agent through a private college counselor she hired when she was applying to schools.
Title: Re: How Opal Mehta got plagiarized...
Post by: linda s. on April 25, 2006, 12:30 PM
I'm not sure if this was brought up yet, but I wonder what would happen if you looked at another handful of very popular titles in this genre. Would you be able to find many similarities between how the teenage characters spoke, what they wore, what brand names were important to them, etc. I'm just not absolutely clear from the examples I saw in the original piece in the Crimson that this is plagarism as opposed to overused commonality. I don't know. But I do wonder who thought to compare the two books and wonder if a few more should be looked at to get a clearer sense.
Title: Re: How Opal Mehta got plagiarized...
Post by: Melanie on April 25, 2006, 01:02 PM
a boston globe article with all of the passages in question listed next to one another for easier comparison:
http://www.boston.com/ae/books/articles/2006/04/24/opal_mehta_vs_sloppy_firsts/
Title: Re: How Opal Mehta got plagiarized...
Post by: sbk(linda) on April 25, 2006, 01:49 PM
sbk, I didn't mean to imply these posts are whispers.  I was referring to Jen's point about the author living in the dorm on a college campus, dealing with her peers pointing and whispering.  I agree that you're entitled to write whatever you want here and I couldn't agree more that we as humans need to be accountable for our mistakes.  Each one of us. 

And Vijaya is right that this is a discussion about plagiarism but I can't help thinking it's much easier to get all wound up about the smaller stuff rather than the bigger issues.  But again, this is a writing community so plagiarism is the highest crime.  Please understand that I wasn't pointing the finger at anyone here, just making a comment with the big picture in mind.  I appreciate the thought and analysis that went into this discussion.

Oh geez, Vinca. I read your post when I was in a bad mood before. I guess I should have reread my comments before posting. I didn't mean  to sound like  a total *****. I did understand what you were trying to say. I'm sorry. I still stand by what I said but I shouldn't have made it sound like I was attacking your comments. Those weren't my intentions.  :love
Title: Re: How Opal Mehta got plagiarized...
Post by: Tracy Abell / Vinca on April 25, 2006, 02:07 PM
sbk, don't beat yourself up for your earlier comments.  I didn't think you sounded like a total **** but wanted to clarify that I wasn't accusing you of anything.  So now that we've cleared up our little miscommunications, how about a group hug?   :hug1:
Title: Re: How Opal Mehta got plagiarized...
Post by: KGray on April 25, 2006, 02:11 PM
Wow. I've been following this story since yesterday. It's just unbelievable and makes you wonder what kind of pressure she was under to finish. Remarkable writing for 19, and she's published, which I'm not and have 10 years on her. But, I won't go that route to get there! Interesting studies that AM mentioned about students on campus. As for the original author, MM, phrases, I read them thinking, "why can't I come up with phrases like that?" But, I'm not writing chick lit either.  . . . .And, what is this about Amazon pulling posts?
Title: Re: How Opal Mehta got plagiarized...
Post by: nhasnat on April 25, 2006, 02:39 PM
I've been following KV's success with great admiration (and admittedly a degree of envy :)) then the rumours about plagarism...now an 'apology' from her and a promise to make changes in the book? Isn't that an admission of guilt?  So now I'm a little annoyed and pissed off... if life were fair her contract would be revoked and the 500k would go to authors who actually writher there own stuff!!!!


Naheed
Title: Re: How Opal Mehta got plagiarized...
Post by: almarrone on April 25, 2006, 03:22 PM
Wow. I've been following this story since yesterday. It's just unbelievable and makes you wonder what kind of pressure she was under to finish. Remarkable writing for 19, and she's published, which I'm not and have 10 years on her. But, I won't go that route to get there! Interesting studies that AM mentioned about students on campus. As for the original author, MM, phrases, I read them thinking, "why can't I come up with phrases like that?" But, I'm not writing chick lit either.  . . . .And, what is this about Amazon pulling posts?

Yesterday there were a few post talking about the plagarizing--they got yanked, but there are more today--Opal is now ranked in the 60's on the Amazon bestsellers list--it keeps improving as the day progresses.
Title: Re: How Opal Mehta got plagiarized...
Post by: sbk(linda) on April 25, 2006, 03:32 PM
Opal is now ranked in the 60's on the Amazon bestsellers list--it keeps improving as the day progresses.

you know... that just pisses me right off. I hate it when people benefit from doing crappy things.

oh, and  :hug1: back to you vinca. :)

Title: Re: How Opal Mehta got plagiarized...
Post by: katep on April 25, 2006, 04:05 PM
Any word from her agent on this?  Any word from any agent on this, or is everyone keeping mum so as not to jeopardize relationships with LB?
Title: Re: How Opal Mehta got plagiarized...
Post by: Laurie on April 25, 2006, 04:09 PM
The article in PW also points out that not only are passages lifted nearly verbatim, but the offending passages come at the same points in the respective books.  Plus Random House is claiming that the characters and plot have been borrowed as well.  Ouch.  It sounds like Opal is a "copy cat."

Laurie
Title: Re: How Opal Mehta got plagiarized...
Post by: sbk(linda) on April 25, 2006, 04:11 PM
meow
Title: Re: How Opal Mehta got plagiarized...
Post by: Jen on April 25, 2006, 04:46 PM
Yesterday there were a few post talking about the plagarizing--they got yanked, but there are more today--Opal is now ranked in the 60's on the Amazon bestsellers list--it keeps improving as the day progresses.

I think at least one of the reviews that got removed yesterday was removed because it copy and pasted the Crimson article in its entirety into review form- which is probably a no-no, especially if you're complaining about plagiarism...
Title: Re: How Opal Mehta got plagiarized...
Post by: fuego80027 on April 25, 2006, 05:47 PM
so reading this more I wonder about the whole stealing of work thing.....we all ask to have our work critqued and let others read it is anyone at all fearful of someone taking their hard work?  My faterin law is always warning me against having anyone looking at my stuff Ijust laugh and say trust me no one is going to take it......anyways back to my question at hand is anyone fearful of that?
Title: Re: How Opal Mehta got plagiarized...
Post by: anonime on April 25, 2006, 06:42 PM
i must admit, when i first heard of the book, i was riddled with jealousy.  unbearable, seething, ugly jealousy of a caliber that i was ashamed to admit to even those who know my ugly side.  :devil:

however, in my defense, i'd like to note that part of that may have to do with the fact that i had a book with that very publisher (a book that was under serious consideration, i might add) but was passed over around the same time that KV's was picked up (for a half-million, no less  :reading2:).

however, i can't help empathizing.  at 19, i was still trying to figure out my morality.  still trying to get my bearings in this big, scary, unforgiving world.  and, at 19 i was desperate to prove my own worth, all around.  i was vulnerable to the whims and influences of the big-wigs around me.

there is another element of this story in the blogosphere.  it seems that KV originally proposed a different novel to her agent (or publisher, not sure which).  however, her idea was apparently "too dark" for the agent/publisher, and she was "encouraged" to make the story more chick-lit.  maybe she was given MM's books in the meantime to show her what they were looking for?

i'm not excusing, just wondering.  if that part of the story is true, it's a hard lesson to learn about integrity and sticking to your own ideas.  i can see a writer that young wanting to prove she's worth her salt and wanting to please her parents and her editors and everyone else.  the holy grail in her palms.  and then snatched away before she can even savor it.

sad, just sad.   :(
Title: Re: How Opal Mehta got plagiarized...
Post by: maripat on April 25, 2006, 07:02 PM
Ug. What a mess. Still, why jeopardize everything for something like this? I know, I know. I've caught up with this thread and all the ideas and theories, but still I'd love to know why. As for her ranking going up on Amazon, that happened with Frey, too, when he was exposed. Folks love a scandal.

Maripat
Title: Re: How Opal Mehta got plagiarized...
Post by: random contents on April 25, 2006, 10:53 PM
I'm mostly a lurker on these boards, but wanted to raise a point I don't think I've heard anyone else bring up. I'm fascinated that this story was broken by a college student - I'm not a journalism expert, but I know enough to know that it's a big deal to be the first to report on something. Granted the writer may have had a vested interest since he's on the same campus as K.V. But still! To be a college journalism student, writing for your school paper and break a story that makes headlines and gets huge coverage in the NY Times, the Boston Globe, the A.P., etc. etc. etc. Pretty impressive.
Title: Re: How Opal Mehta got plagiarized...
Post by: jadedmetaphor on April 26, 2006, 12:40 AM
Here's the latest from The Crimson. I'm glad people are finally giving their journalists (esp. David Zhou, the author of the original article) due praise.

This latest article is very thorough. It's interesting to finally have a lawyer weigh in. I was surprised to read that MM may not be able to sue for copyright infringement:

http://www.thecrimson.com/article.aspx?ref=513000

I'm afraid I don't totally understand the legal implications (or lack, thereof?). Any lawyers willing to speak up (even anonymously) and tell us more about what this might mean for MM?

Edit:
Of course, Little, Brown, may be able to sue KV if she's violated an originality clause in her contract with them, but I somehow doubt they'll want to, considering their response, thusfar.
Title: Re: How Opal Mehta got plagiarized...
Post by: Janz on April 26, 2006, 07:14 AM
All along, what’s bothered me most is the “170 specialty stores.” As so many others have pointed out, it just doesn’t make sense to plagiarize this when the exact number and even the type of store could easily have been changed. Internalizing another’s story and subconscious memory may be plausible explanations, but both are abstract concepts that I’m not sure I understand. I want to know the WAY it happened. I got a partial answer last night at 3 AM when I found myself half asleep and rehearsing lines (without consciously meaning to) from a book I’d read the day before.

I’d read part of “Saving Francesca” yesterday and had found the scene where one character mixes up Trotsky and Tolstoy particularly clever. In a later scene, Francesca suggests that the outcome of a basketball game that became a grudge match “would have turned out very differently if Trotsky had written Anna Karenina.” I loved this line when I read it and found myself rehearsing it, as well as the lines from the earlier scene that led to it, repeatedly (much the same way you might go over conversations you’ve had during the day). It’s unlikely I would have remembered this at all the next morning if I hadn’t made a point to do so because of this plagiarism issue.

This seems to me to be a parsimonious way to understand some of the more troubling aspects of this incident. If I’m not even reading this book to study style and structure and I’m rehearsing it during the night, I can only imagine what I might be doing under pressure to perform. If I’d inadvertently rehearsed it enough over time, I’d certainly remember the exact line without necessarily remembering where it came from. I don’t think, by any means, that this explains the “approximately 40 cases where Opal mirrors passages from McCafferty's works” that Applebaum refers to. It just gives me a better understanding of the how some of it might have happened.

Title: Re: How Opal Mehta got plagiarized...
Post by: Jaina on April 26, 2006, 07:37 AM
Janz, it fascinates me too, so I think I'll start another thread--not in "Book Talk" but another section--about how we read and memorize or internalize . . . that way it will be separate from the Opal trainwreck (I keep thinking about the TV traffic report phrase "significant onlooker delay"--I just can't stop reading this thread!).
Title: Re: How Opal Mehta got plagiarized...
Post by: Anne Marie on April 26, 2006, 07:39 AM
There's video up of the author on the TODAY show this morning at http://www.msnbc.com

I can't access it myself so I don't know how it went.  Anybody?

AM
Title: Re: How Opal Mehta got plagiarized...
Post by: richmond8 on April 26, 2006, 08:39 AM
Does anyone understand why this book got a half-million dollar advance?  To a 19 year old for a first book?  A book that needed a book packager to work on?  What was Little Brown thinking? 

To whoever it was earlier who said their ms was rejected around the same time Opal was taken up, my sympathies.

Too much of publishing is hype and commercial idiocy.  I hope they all take a lesson from this.
Title: Re: How Opal Mehta got plagiarized...
Post by: KDBrazil on April 26, 2006, 08:44 AM
She was interviewed by Katie Couric. Katie was alternately tough on her and kind toward her, I thought. KV said she read MM's books probably 3 times each when she was in high school, between 14 years old and her senior year of high school. She again stated that any similarities were completely unintentional. She recognizes that some passages are very similar but said (about one passage in particular) that when she was writing and the words came to her, she heard them as if the charcater would have used them, that was the way her character thought and it seemed like her words. She seemed a little desperate to prove to MM that she didn't do this intentionally. At the end when Katie told her she wasn't sure that she had convinced everyone of her innocence, KV said, "all I can do is tell the truth."

My summary is that the interview didn't hurt her image anymore than the situation already has hurt her image but she didn't convince anyone of her innocence either.
Title: Re: How Opal Mehta got plagiarized...
Post by: NDM on April 26, 2006, 09:05 AM
She didn't say anything new in the interview.  In the end, Katie asked KV why she decided to do the interview.  She said she wanted to explain herself.  To this, Katie said "But some would say you haven't really explained anything."  [I'm paraphrasing, but I think it's pretty close to what KK said].

KV definitely looked like someone whose world has come crashing down around her.  She looked quite young, scared, and vulnerable.  If she were my own daughter, I'd be furiously protective, regardless of her mistake.  I wouldn't tell her it was okay, but I would definitely be livid about the media frenzy and character assinations.

There are more people involved in this debacle, and no one else is having to be accountable.  As was pointed out earlier in this thread, why did NO ONE else, in the two years it took to get this book to print, discover this "mistake"?  (Unless it wasn't a "mistake" and more of a marketing ploy...?).  I agree with the earlier post -- where were the book packagers and editors who propped up the idea for this book?  Was everyone too busy salivating at the possible profits?
Title: Re: How Opal Mehta got plagiarized...
Post by: Melanie on April 26, 2006, 09:25 AM
Does anyone understand why this book got a half-million dollar advance? To a 19 year old for a first book? A book that needed a book packager to work on? What was Little Brown thinking?

I believe they were thinking about the ka-ching factor.  :EmoticonDollar:
Look where it got them.  I know this is a business and all, but there is another side of it.  Maybe they lost that balance.  You're right, hopefully this will be a wakeup call.
Title: Re: How Opal Mehta got plagiarized...
Post by: olmue on April 26, 2006, 10:52 AM
Been following this thread with great interest...who but a group of writers could get their minds around all the facets of the issue at the same time?

As to huge advances, I think it is a marketing ploy. New author, huge advance, big news story, now everyone wants to buy the book and find out why. This isn't the first time in the past six months that I've heard of a huge advance from Little, Brown to a first-time YA author (the last one I heard of was worth it, IMO; but even so, I think it was still advertising). I'm sure other publishers do the same thing sometimes. (And hey, if you get one of these advances, then yay for you! I'm certainly not against that sort of thing  :)). Still, in this case it seems there was too much thought about  :EmoticonDollar: and not enough about the actual  :books: product.
Title: Re: How Opal Mehta got plagiarized...
Post by: steph on April 26, 2006, 11:11 AM

Here's the a link to the latest from Crown publisher Steven Ross

http://www.publishersweekly.com/article/CA6328311.html?display=breaking

According to Mr. Ross :

" The media storm has derailed Crown’s plans to promote McCafferty’s just-released third title, Charmed Thirds. After a strong couple of weeks, the sales momentum has slowed, Ross said, as the focus has shifted to the plagiarism issue. “We can’t book anything,” Ross said. McCafferty will honor a commitment to appear at 4 p.m. today at the New York Public Library's Teen Central branch on 53rd St."



Title: Re: How Opal Mehta got plagiarized...
Post by: Janz on April 26, 2006, 11:52 AM
By claiming that the sales momentum has slowed, it certainly sounds like Ross is setting the stage for the time when, as he puts it, the dispute moves “out of the media and into the hands of lawyers.” I can't figure out why the sales momentum would be slowed by the controversy. The sales of "The Da Vinci Code" and "The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail" both rose during that plagiarism suit.
Title: Re: How Opal Mehta got plagiarized...
Post by: Pickles on April 26, 2006, 12:06 PM
The most disturbing thing I read was a jr. high student's review on Amazon. The essence of the review was, "So what if KV copied, MM is just jealous because she's old and not as successful." Ack!

I still have a gut feeling that someone else besides KV was behind those passages. She's taking the fall, because they think there will be more pity and compassion for a young girl, and she can play the "It was an accident because I'm super smart with a photographic memory," card.

There's something fishy here. I just feel there's more to the story. I don't think anyone in the publishing industry would be this stupid, but some of her other "handlers" perhaps.
Title: Re: How Opal Mehta got plagiarized...
Post by: jadedmetaphor on April 26, 2006, 12:25 PM
Here's the a link to the latest from Crown publisher Steven Ross

http://www.publishersweekly.com/article/CA6328311.html?display=breaking

According to Mr. Ross :

" The media storm has derailed Crown’s plans to promote McCafferty’s just-released third title, Charmed Thirds. After a strong couple of weeks, the sales momentum has slowed, Ross said, as the focus has shifted to the plagiarism issue. “We can’t book anything,” Ross said. McCafferty will honor a commitment to appear at 4 p.m. today at the New York Public Library's Teen Central branch on 53rd St."

Thanks for posting this, Steph. The same article you posted said that MM turned down a Today Show interview because she doesn't want to be seen as using this terrible situation to promote her books...I'm so impressed by how she's handled herself in this tough situation.  It's really a shame KV's book sales have skyrocketed while MM's have slowed- Especially since MM probably won't be able to sue. 

I'm buying Sloppy Firsts- not only because I want to support MM, but also because I thought the passages the media compared to KV's work were far better than KV's reinterpretations, if you can call them that.
Title: Re: How Opal Mehta got plagiarized...
Post by: Paulahy on April 26, 2006, 01:02 PM
I've been following this thread.  It's very addictive!! 

The angle I find most interesting is how it plays into marketing and promoting the book (be it good or bad publicity).

My own opinion - I don't believe she was unaware of what she was doing.  Jen has brought up some really good points throughout about how she may have felt she wouldn't get caught etc... And I lean more towards that.  It's a little too close for comfort for me to believe she had no idea those weren't her original words.

I also have very strong feelings about the fact that a packager was brought in during the writing process and the huge advance given.  Both smack of marketing campaign from day one.  It's one of those "build it and they will come" type of things.  It seems like LB wanted a hot new artist to promote and they went out and molded one. 

What I find sad about that is the number of authors who may not have required additional "shaping" from a packager to make their work publishable that were probably rejected that same year by LB.

It sounds like quite a lot of blame is there to pass along.  The author is at the front of the pack and taking the brunt alone.  I don't feel sorry for her, though.  We have to own the decisions we make.  Though I wonder, where were her parents throughout this process to ensure she was indeed able to handle the pressure and demands that surely arose once such a huge deal was sealed?

I took a lighter approach talking about it in my blog - choosing to focus on this new trend in marketing where publishers are relying on controversy to get a book an extra boost.  www.paulasjort.blogspot.com

Love how I can come to this thread and get so many angles, though.

-P

Title: Re: How Opal Mehta got plagiarized...
Post by: Pickles on April 26, 2006, 01:16 PM
Oh, I don't think she's unaware, but I think there might have been some "influence" somewhere. Or she just got in a bind and was under pressure and thought she could get out of it this way. Yes, I think she needs to take responsibility and there have to be some pretty substantial consequences.

Anyway, as to why her amazon sells have gone up...well people are snatching them up to sell on e-bay. $35.99 was the top bid for one when I last checked.


http://search.ebay.com/search/search.dll?from=R40&satitle=Opal+Mehta
Title: Re: How Opal Mehta got plagiarized...
Post by: linda s. on April 26, 2006, 01:18 PM


I also have very strong feelings about the fact that a packager was brought in during the writing process and the huge advance given.  Both smack of marketing campaign from day one. 


Miss P--can you explain what that means, "to bring in a packager" to help with the writing. I saw that written someone else and I have no idea what that means. The whole thing is getting stranger by the minute.


Title: Re: How Opal Mehta got plagiarized...
Post by: Pickles on April 26, 2006, 01:26 PM
I think in addition to discussing KV's motivations, what do these increased sales say about our society at large. Sloppy First is also being sold on e-bay, but not at over twice retail value. I just looked briefly, and I didn't see one for over $20.

Why did I look this up? I guessed people might be snatching them for collector's items before they were yanked, and where do people go to sell collector's items? Ebay.

Title: Re: How Opal Mehta got plagiarized...
Post by: fuego80027 on April 26, 2006, 01:29 PM
I saw the today show interview and they spoke of another incident with another author what was this? can someone explain briefly to me? thanks
Title: Re: How Opal Mehta got plagiarized...
Post by: Jen on April 26, 2006, 01:30 PM
My most recent thoughts:

The number of passages copied keeps going up and up, and I'd be willing to bet a large amount of money (not 500k of course, because *I* don't have it) that at least some of the passages listed were copied unintentionally.  Even if Kaavya sat down and copied several of the passages word for word, I'd still be willing to be that at the very least the "something so random" one was unintentional, based on the fact that I've said that exact phrase more times than I can count, and I've never read McCafferty's books (though I did start Charming Thirds yesterday).  I also STILL think that the "170" one was unintentional, because I would like to believe that KV is not the dumbest person on the face of the planet.

I think it's likely that she was influenced unconsciously on some of these items- the question is whether or not you buy it for ALL of them.  Which got me to wondering- which passages do you guys think are the most damning?  For me, I think the "personal space" one is the big one- in part because referencing Human Evolution makes NO sense whatsoever in that context, and in part because I don't think the original sentence's structure was memorable enough or catchy enough to stick in someone's mind years after they read it.  And since when do high schoolers take "human evolution class" anyway?  

It's not that I think it matters whether she lifted one passage or forty- if it was intentional, it was wrong (and if it was unintentional, I think she's still professional culpable, if not morally, because intentionality aside, I have doubts as to whether the book should be left on the shelves).  It's just that when I'm thinking my way through it, I cannot for the life of me believe that they were all intentional, and rather than let that push me to the "none of them were intentional" camp, I thought I'd entertain the idea of the middle position- it's possible that some were and some weren't...
Title: Re: How Opal Mehta got plagiarized...
Post by: Pickles on April 26, 2006, 01:48 PM
Well, I don't know about that, but interesting point Jen. I did google up Sloppy Firsts, and learned that my concept of Spam Poetry (turning spam into poems) was not as original as I thought.

I started writing poetry based on spam earlier this year. Now, I sort of figured somebody had already figured this out before me. But what if I had included Spam poetry in a novel? Then I too might be accused of plagiarism.

This would be an example of just getting the same idea...and I don't think that's too far fetched. Also, in my wip my character has a trait similar to a character in another book similar to mine. (Did that make any sense?) Anyway, my point is that some things do happend just by accident.  And I think it's possible for a few passages to have been unintentionally internalized or with some common scenes/language just come up with the same thing. But in this case there seems to be too many to be coincidental.

I don't know Jen. I'll have to think on your theory.

Anyway, so much for "spam poetry."  :)

Title: Re: How Opal Mehta got plagiarized...
Post by: Jen on April 26, 2006, 01:50 PM
Ravelda-

That was more or less my original theory.  The one thing that doesn't sit well with it is the fact that KV is claiming to have read the books in high school, long before she started writing Opal.  I think her statements all give the direct impression that she wasn't reading them for inspiration, and that she didn't read them at all during the writing process, and that makes me doubt her.  I would have believed her if she'd come out and said, "Look, this was all unintentional.  While writing, I was also re-reading a lot of my favorite books, among them Sloppy Firsts.  I just wanted to remember what it was about the genre that I liked so much, and since these were my favorite books, I turned to them to read during the process, but I never deliberately copied anything- I must just have had the phrases on my mind after having read the books so recently."  She very emphatically did NOT say that, because saying that would make her somehow more to blame.  I actually found reading her statement to be pretty off-putting.  All along, I've been in the it-could-have-been-unintentional camp, but I really don't think it could have been unintentional in the way she describes it, which makes me doubt her word altogether.
Title: Re: How Opal Mehta got plagiarized...
Post by: jadedmetaphor on April 26, 2006, 01:57 PM
Well, I don't know about that, but interesting point Jen. I did google up Sloppy Firsts, and learned that my concept of Spam Poetry (turning spam into poems) was not as original as I thought.

I started writing poetry based on spam earlier this year. Now, I sort of figured somebody had already figured this out before me. But what if I had included Spam poetry in a novel? Then I too might be accused of plagiarism.

This would be an example of just getting the same idea...and I don't think that's too far fetched. Also, in my wip my character has a trait similar to a character in another book similar to mine. (Did that make any sense?) Anyway, my point is that some things do happend just by accident.  And I think it's possible for a few passages to have been unintentionally internalized or with some common scenes/language just come up with the same thing. But in this case there seems to be too many to be coincidental.

I don't know Jen. I'll have to think on your theory.

Anyway, so much for "spam poetry."  :)



I think coincidentally coming up with a similar idea (or even a similar character) is very different from including frequent passages with almost the exact same wording. I'm not so sure writing about the same idea is plagiarism (or, I guess, more legally important, copyright infringement?) - It doesn't seem like it should be, to me, so long as what you write is different "enough." There are a bunch of post-Harry Potter wizard school stories out there, but they aren't exactly plagiarized. Further, Jane Yolen had a book out about a wizard school long before Harry Potter came out. I don't think anyone can own a basic idea, it's the exact words, or exact plots/characters (down to exact descriptions, passages, etc.) that seem to cross the line.

Of course, this is just my guess/opinion. I wish we had a legal expert around who could clear up those lines for us... As writers, I'm sure we'd all like to know where they're drawn.
Title: Re: How Opal Mehta got plagiarized...
Post by: Laurie on April 26, 2006, 01:58 PM
This whole business makes my head spin!

My husband has written spam poetry, too, Pickles.

 I'm convinced I'm going to write a whole book and discover someone else will have done it before me. Already my last story has a MC with a trait similar to a MC in a published book.  It's a coincidence and a minor point, but I find myself worrying someone will accuse me of "lifting" it.  Jeesh.

Laurie
Title: Re: How Opal Mehta got plagiarized...
Post by: Pickles on April 26, 2006, 02:13 PM
I think the books should be yanked, the advance returned, and the movie deal cancelled.

If KV wants to be a published author, she will have to start from scratch again.

It's up to the publisher if they want to do anything more.
Title: Re: How Opal Mehta got plagiarized...
Post by: nhasnat on April 26, 2006, 02:23 PM
HEAR HEAR! I ditto Pickles! Now if they would only listen!

NH
Title: Re: How Opal Mehta got plagiarized...
Post by: ecb on April 26, 2006, 02:24 PM
Ok, I was staying out because I was incapable of forming so lucid a thought as the rest of you, but I'll respond to Jen's latest question.

First, though... having read all the passages, I'm not terribly impressed by EITHER book!  I suppose argument can be made that either and-or both authors' voices are fresh, lively, authentically teen... but, really.  Still not impressed.  I can't see why anyone would feel so enamored of one to want to "internalize" or plagiarize it--whatever we want to call this.  I will say, though, that MM's prose reads much more smoothly, in every case.  This is almost like the "cheap knock-off" version of SLOPPY FIRSTS--it looks the same on the surface, but lacks the quality and workmanship of the original.

Also, about book packagers... hardly an expert, but I do think that they're both much more widely used and have much less stigma attached to them than we would normally think. Sheree Bykofsky talks some about packaging in THE COMPLETE IDIOT'S GUIDE TO GETTING PUBLISHED, and there's a book packager speaking at the MWG conference this weekend.  Apparently SISTERHOOD OF THE TRAVELING PANTS came through a packager.

Now... per Jen, which passage is the most damning?  For me, from the original set referenced in the first post, it's this one:

‘COME ON, I WANT TO TALK TO YOU’

From page 209 of McCafferty’s first novel:
“‘Uhhhh...I live less than half a mile from here. Twelve Forest Drive.’
“Pause.
“‘So I don’t need a ride...’
“Another pause.
“‘But do you want one?’ he asked.
“God, did I want one.
“He knew it, too. He leaned over the front seat and popped open the passenger-side door. ‘Come on, I want to talk to you,’ he said.”

From page 172 of Viswanathan’s novel:
“‘Sit down.’
“‘Uh, actually...I was just dropping off some books. I’m supposed to be home by nine. And it’s already eight-forty.’
“Pause.
“‘So I can’t really stay...’
“Another pause.
“‘But you want to?’ he asked.
“Did I? Yes...
“He knew it, too. He patted the chair again. ‘Come on, I want to talk to you,’ he said.”


I can understand "internalizing" a colorful phrase.  I CANNOT buy "internalizing" to the point of reproducing the exact structure, down to the sentence count, of the scene.  This isn't just a case of one witty expression slipping into your writing--this is dialogue, reproduced almost verbatim, for seven lines. 
Title: Re: How Opal Mehta got plagiarized...
Post by: Jaina on April 26, 2006, 02:32 PM
Pickles, I've been saving those random spam poems for a while, too.  My crit group and I like to make line breaks and find "deep" meaning in all those funny random words.  I always call it "found poetry"--I even submitted some to a website once.  I would say this is not all that uncommon--surely other people, especially writer types, see those lines and think "a poem!"

Look, here's a thread from 2004 where I posted one of the spam poems--"Waiting Winter High Hammer."

http://www.verlakay.com/boards/index.php?topic=2248.0

Anyway, like many have said, writers are bound to come up with some of the same creative craziness.  It's all in the execution.  And executing paragraphs in the exact order with a few substituted phrases is just plain bizarre.
Title: Re: How Opal Mehta got plagiarized...
Post by: Frainstorm on April 26, 2006, 02:53 PM
Okay, I'll play What Was Most Damning? First, though, I must say I was very impressed by some of McCafferty's phrasings (but I'm not going to write them in a journal to use later). Many would stick in my mind, at least until I read something new. I enjoy clever phrases like "For the first twelve years of my life, these were the only qualifications I needed in a best friend." It's a fun way to say it, and speaks volumes about the speaker.

Most damning for me was the sadomasochistic gesture of Diet Cokes at Cinnabon versus Diet Cokes at (fill in your mall place that serves opposite-of-diet fare). KV chose to fill in the blank with Mrs. Fields.

I won't espouse a long theory, but you'll never convince me this was all unintentional. Sure, the consequences are unintentional, but the plagiarism was done knowingly. Still, I'm not in the camp of returning the half mill, that seems harsh at first glance.

John
Title: Re: How Opal Mehta got plagiarized...
Post by: andracill on April 26, 2006, 02:57 PM
I don't get this whole 'internalizing' thing in the first place...I read tons of books, and I can quote from any number of them, but I've never reproduced anything that approaches this type of copying.  She didn't simply copy the structure, but the style, the voice.  That's more than internalizing, imo.  That's either using your photographic memory (which, btw, doesn't stand up either, because if her perfect memory can produce such an accurate phrasing, you can also remember where it came from!) -- or putting the book in front of you and copying it down.  Sigh.  Using a similar phrase here and there doesn't constitute plagiarism to me, either-- that's bound to happen.  And of course we can use similar plots (look at Bridget Jones and P&P)....  Yeah, the whole thing is just too bad, too too bad.  And I agree with Kay -- her book deal should be cancelled, the book pulled, and the advance returned (and definitely no movie!)...maybe we should start a petition :)
Title: Re: How Opal Mehta got plagiarized...
Post by: Melanie on April 26, 2006, 03:01 PM
at the risk of sounding like a broken record, i'm going ask again: what is the responsibility of those who read the manuscript (probably many times) before it hit the shelves?  aren't we talking about pro's, some of whom have worked in the industry for decades?  the packager, the editor, the publisher?  isn't it really convenient that one lone 19-year-old girl is taking ALL of the responsibility?  i know that my manuscript was read by at least *three* editors at one house.  surely someone would have caught at least ONE similarity, since the number seems to be steadily rising . . . ?

like some in this thread, i too feel bad for her.  she is going to be scarred by this for life.  she's 19 now, but even when she turns 50, googling her name will undoubtedly bring up this episode in her life.  most of us are allowed to live down our shame, to grow from our mistakes and become better people because of it.  this will follow her around forever.

i can't even imagine some of the shenanigans i pulled at her age being scattered in the spotlight on a global level -- etched in perpetual e-history.  i know i've also blurred those lines of plagiarism during stressful, sleepless term paper/exam days -- some intentionally, others not.  i guess i can be deeply thankful for not receiving a public e-flogging.

for those of you who would revoke her advance, i imagine it probably will be.  i hope that's where it ends.  she does deserve a chance to move on from this -- to learn from it and grow, just like any one of us.

**edited to add: would the fury be as intense if her advance had been the usual 7-10,000 offered to first-time novelists?  either way, there are a lot more people involved in this whole thing, and only her face in the cameras.**
Title: Re: How Opal Mehta got plagiarized...
Post by: WG on April 26, 2006, 03:07 PM
I think coincidentally coming up with a similar idea (or even a similar character) is very different from including frequent passages with almost the exact same wording. I'm not so sure writing about the same idea is plagiarism (or, I guess, more legally important, copyright infringement?) - It doesn't seem like it should be, to me, so long as what you write is different "enough." There are a bunch of post-Harry Potter wizard school stories out there, but they aren't exactly plagiarized. Further, Jane Yolen had a book out about a wizard school long before Harry Potter came out. I don't think anyone can own a basic idea, it's the exact words, or exact plots/characters (down to exact descriptions, passages, etc.) that seem to cross the line.

Of course, this is just my guess/opinion. I wish we had a legal expert around who could clear up those lines for us... As writers, I'm sure we'd all like to know where they're drawn.

I'm not a legal expert, nor do I have a photographic memory. But I do recall a lawsuit a few years ago against J.K. Rowling by someone who had written a book about a wizard named Harry (or maybe Henry Potter) who attended a sorcery school.  The suit was dismissed because, apparently, there was no there there (to quote Gertrude Stein). Just coincidental, surface similarities.
Title: Re: How Opal Mehta got plagiarized...
Post by: andracill on April 26, 2006, 03:08 PM
Just a quick addition:  Melanie, I also feel for her - and I hope that if they do revoke her advance, that she can begin again from there.  But I also hope the consequences are serious enough that other young people see that it's not best to take the risk (not just with plagiarism -- with any moral dilemma) -- part of me really thinks she simply thought she could get away with it and that it wasn't that big of a deal...bummer of a way to find out the truth!  And boy, I'm so thankful that I wasn't in the public eye for any reason when I was her age!
Title: Re: How Opal Mehta got plagiarized...
Post by: Sudipta on April 26, 2006, 03:17 PM
I just can't stay away from this anymore....

Melanie, when that lone 19-year-old was taking ALL of the money, attention, and fame, no one felt sorry for her.  No one said it is too much responsibility for a teenager to succeed at college and write a book worth a quarter of a million dollars.  And I would assume that editors don't read manuscripts on the assumption that the author might be plagiarizing.  So while it is a little weird that no one caught on to the similarities before, it certainly is no one's fault but KV's that she used another author's words and passed them off as her own.  Why should anyone else bear the brunt of the blame?  She did it.  And no one forced her to.

The thing is, no matter what she wrote, Little, Brown would have pushed it as the best thing since sliced bread -- they invested way too much to let the quality of the book get in the way of what they hyped it as.  So there was no need for corner-cutting.

She does deserve a chance to move on from this -- and she will.  After all, she is 19 and she has a whole life ahead of her.  And while it will remain a perpetual embarrassment, it will soon be replaced by someone else's screw up.  But would you be so forgiving of KV if she was 25 and had done this?  Or 40?  Is it less wrong what she did because she's younger?  Or can we make the argument that a girl smart enough to get into Harvard is smart enough to know you can't copy other people's work and pretend it is your own?  She cannot both profit from her age (look at me!  I'm a brilliant 19 year old and I deserve a huge advance!) and use it as a shield.

Wouldn't it be refreshing, though, if Little, Brown were to stop defending their investment and do the right thing -- pull the contract and make restitution to MM -- without being forced to legally?
Title: Re: How Opal Mehta got plagiarized...
Post by: Anne Marie on April 26, 2006, 03:18 PM
http://fusenumber8.blogspot.com/2006/04/sloppy-stealing.html

Check this out.  It's the blog (great blog, by the way--I read it every day) of a librarian who works in the library where McCafferty had an appearance this afternoon.

AM
Title: Re: How Opal Mehta got plagiarized...
Post by: Pickles on April 26, 2006, 03:28 PM
Yes, I don't care what the advance was. If it were fifty cents, she should return it.

Some may be sick of me bringing up my piddly plagiarism cases, but I use them to make my point. In both cases where my friend and I had previously published work lifted, we asked for the plagiarist to return the money. We also asked for our poems to be reprinted and acknowledged properly in the next issue. Our poems had appeared in the same college literary magazine, but separate people plagiarized and had them published in other magazines at other colleges years later. And both plagiarists won prizes. :P


But I do remember way back when, that both my friend and I were treated as if we should let things drop, not be so  "harsh", have mercy on the plagiarist, etc. We definitely got the feeling that some people wanted us to just go away and quick making a fuss (Administration of the other schools, not ours...the profs and administration at our alma mater were behind us 100%). I think the woman who plagiarized my friend might have had harsher circumstances, as she was a Masters degree student.

Anyway, my point is it's sad when young people do dumb things and screw up their lives, but there still have to be consequences. I think that's only fair to return the money. If you didn't write it, you don't get paid for it. KV didn't write some piddly poem in an obscure collegiate publication; she made a major deal with a huge house. The similarities are so great, that I really think the only solution is to just pull the book out of circulation. Cancel this out. Begin again. Hope that neither her publisher or MM's press any charges against her. Learn from it, and go on with it. The public is fairly forgiving. If she is truly a talented writer, she'll get through this.

Also, most publishing contracts should contain some verbiage wherein the writer certifies the work is original.

Title: Re: How Opal Mehta got plagiarized...
Post by: Sudipta on April 26, 2006, 03:40 PM
Pickles, most contracts do say that the author certifies that the work is original and belongs to him/her.  Some of my contracts even state that the author must guarantee that the work is free of any copyright infringements to the best of their knowledge.  Now, of course, we don't know what the LB contract says, and nothing can be done if an author steals someone else's work and then claims that it is his or her own, but most large corporations cover themselves in this way.

The worst thing about this is that it isn't even all that shocking -- how many cases in recent history, from James Frey to that NY Times reporter to the Harvard professor, have there been involving plagiarism?
Title: Re: How Opal Mehta got plagiarized...
Post by: LisaWrites on April 26, 2006, 03:47 PM
[
I still have a gut feeling that someone else besides KV was behind those passages. She's taking the fall, because they think there will be more pity and compassion for a young girl, and she can play the "It was an accident because I'm super smart with a photographic memory," card.

There's something fishy here. I just feel there's more to the story. I don't think anyone in the publishing industry would be this stupid, but some of her other "handlers" perhaps.
Quote

Yes, Pickles, this is my thinking too. I tried getting onto 17th Street Productions website but it's not loading. I'm curious to know if either of MM's books were packaged through them. Not that that's a bad thing - I'm just wondering if there might be one or two people who have worked with both of these authors. Who might they have in common?

I watched the video with Katie Couric and have a gut feeling KV wasn't telling the whole truth when she said she hadn't read those books in years. The interview bothered me a lot. I got the impression she was there for pity. I'm glad Katie was tough on her but KV is laughing all the way to the bank right now. The beginning of the interview said the Harvard paper got an anonymous tip to read Opal and compare it to MM's books. Wow. Either this is a big publicity stunt for both authors or KV confided in the wrong person and got caught. The similarities are too close for this to be accidental internalizing.

Lisa A
Title: Re: How Opal Mehta got plagiarized...
Post by: Pickles on April 26, 2006, 03:55 PM
Ack, I've got to stop and do something else. I was trying to post, when Lisa's post came in, and I saw my own words but thought they were Lisas's and thought, "Omg, how did Lisa come up with the same veribiage I used."

Someone could have just noticed the similarities. It's very possible someone read MM's and KV's books close together, and went aha! Of course, it is peculiar that the news broke in the Harvard paper.

Anyway, unless it was taken out of context and there were more words before it the initial response of "No comment. I don't know anything about it." smacks of a cover up.  Or she had been tipped off that the news was about to break.

Seriously, if somebody called you and said that it had just been discovered that your novel was similar to another, wouldn't you act shocked, dismayed, surprised, something...especially if you truly had no idea that you had done it.

I've got to go. I'm supposed to be packing. Ack.
Title: Re: How Opal Mehta got plagiarized...
Post by: jadedmetaphor on April 26, 2006, 04:18 PM
Thanks for posting this, Steph. The same article you posted said that MM turned down a Today Show interview because she doesn't want to be seen as using this terrible situation to promote her books...I'm so impressed by how she's handled herself in this tough situation.  It's really a shame KV's book sales have skyrocketed while MM's have slowed- Especially since MM probably won't be able to sue. 

I'm buying Sloppy Firsts- not only because I want to support MM, but also because I thought the passages the media compared to KV's work were far better than KV's reinterpretations, if you can call them that.

Correction: While the campaign for MM's 3rd book has slowed, it does appear sales for her other books, at least, have increased (although not as much as KV's):

http://www.thecrimson.com/article.aspx?ref=513041

Glad to see MM is benefitting from the publicity, at least.
Title: Re: How Opal Mehta got plagiarized...
Post by: steph on April 26, 2006, 04:19 PM
Thanks for posting this, Steph. The same article you posted said that MM turned down a Today Show interview because she doesn't want to be seen as using this terrible situation to promote her books...I'm so impressed by how she's handled herself in this tough situation.  It's really a shame KV's book sales have skyrocketed while MM's have slowed- Especially since MM probably won't be able to sue. 

I'm buying Sloppy Firsts- not only because I want to support MM, but also because I thought the passages the media compared to KV's work were far better than KV's reinterpretations, if you can call them that.

I think MM is handling herself extremely well.  But then again she is media savy is she not, as a former editor at Cosmo. She is one smart cookie!

What I don't believe for one second is the head of Crown's claim that the books, which have been out for all of 10 or 11 days when the **** hit the fan, have suffered a decline in sales. HUH???

I was happily reading along - thinking yeah for MM, very classy (which I still think) and then the BS about the books declining in sales...and then no one wants to book her.

Thanks Ann Marie for posting the 'Librarian' blog - very informative - again MM = smart cookie.  I think we all knew reading that she would be apprearing at the library that so too would the swarms of media - and yet - the head honcho at Crown claims that no one wants to book her... oh ya they want to book her - obviously not to proudly parade her new book - but um in the process of answering the obvious, could she not also proudly talk about her book?  I mean was she scheduled on THE TODAY SHOW previous to this fiasco - I think not.

Note to MM get lemons make lemonade.


** LOL! Jaded posted at the same time
Title: Re: How Opal Mehta got plagiarized...
Post by: jadedmetaphor on April 26, 2006, 04:33 PM
I think MM is handling herself extremely well.  But then again she is media savy is she not, as a former editor at Cosmo. She is one smart cookie!

What I don't believe for one second is the head of Crown's claim that the books, which have been out for all of 10 or 11 days when the **** hit the fan, have suffered a decline in sales. HUH???

I was happily reading along - thinking yeah for MM, very classy (which I still think) and then the BS about the books declining in sales...and then no one wants to book her.

Thanks Ann Marie for posting the 'Librarian' blog - very informative - again MM = smart cookie.  I think we all knew reading that she would be apprearing at the library that so too would the swarms of media - and yet - the head honcho at Crown claims that no one wants to book her... oh ya they want to book her - obviously not to proudly parade her new book - but um in the process of answering the obvious, could she not also proudly talk about her book?  I mean was she scheduled on THE TODAY SHOW previous to this fiasco - I think not.

Note to MM get lemons make lemonade.


** LOL! Jaded posted at the same time

I agree MM has been very classy, gracious, and professional. I interpreted the Crown rep's statement differently on my second reading. I think he said the *momentum* from the original release has slowed (which is understandable, considering the bulk of their marketing was likely directed at the release. Plus, the 3rd book doesn't have as much to do with this issue as the others). Also, about booking, I think he meant that they can't book anything they would normally have booked because people only want to hear about/talk about the plagiarism issue, not so much MM's new book. It seems to me that MM doesn't want to talk about the plagiarism issue for various reasons (esp. since she said she didn't want to appear to be using it for promotion). I think that's what he was trying to say, but that's just my interpretation. Regardless, I'm glad MM is getting some good sales for her other books out of this, at the very least.

Also, I can't imagine that KV is coming up with what to say all by herself. She had extreme help getting into college, she had help getting her book published, and since her publisher is standing by her, I imagine she has help, now. I imagine she at least had legal counsel before releasing her statement. Again, this is all wild guessing!
Title: Re: How Opal Mehta got plagiarized...
Post by: steph on April 26, 2006, 04:43 PM
 :laugh:  Yes, I do believe that KV needs (or likes) her hand held.  That may be the source of most of the problems she is currently facing.

On a different note for those of you wishing that KV has her advance taken back, what if, she is only one small cog in this wheel of deceit - wouldn't her only incentive to keeping her mouth shut and 'falling on her sword' be the advance - let's call it, oh I don't know, hush money. :yup

Me thinks LB will not remove said advance
Title: Re: How Opal Mehta got plagiarized...
Post by: Melanie on April 26, 2006, 05:48 PM
On a different note for those of you wishing that KV has her advance taken back, what if, she is only one small cog in this wheel of deceit - wouldn't her only incentive to keeping her mouth shut and 'falling on her sword' be the advance - let's call it, oh I don't know, hush money. :yup

Me thinks LB will not remove said advance

thanks steph, that was my point.  i don't think kv did this all by herself.

the way i see it, a lot of people saw huge dollar signs when they signed kv.  and rather than examining, asking questions, or deliberating, they pushed the whole process through on the fast track.  i'm not exonerating kv, she certainly played her part.  but i am calling into question her being singled out as having done *all* of this to herself.  and yes, it would be different in my book if this had happened to a 25 or 40-year-old.  as someone (jen, maybe? sorry!) mentioned, someone older would have more life experience behind them and would, more likely than not, be better equipped to handle some of the fallout.  also, if there *was* a whole crew behind the *idea* of opal mehta, someone with more experience/years might have handled *that* differently as well.

i completely disagree that the packager, publisher, and editors are absolved of all responsibility.  i would think that, since the editors and publisher are familiar with the ya, chick-lit world, at least *one* of them, somewhere in the two years between idea and going to print, might have read mm's book/s and noticed the similarities.  certainly enough to investigate the matter further.  after all, sloppy firsts was not some obscure novel that went largely unnoticed.  also, what if, as someone said before, she was encouraged to read mm's books as points of reference for what the packager and the publisher had in mind?  if that is the case, the connection between the two is deliberate.

no, no one felt sorry for her when she got the advance (why would they?), or that it might be too much for a college student to be academically successful and write a book worth a lot of money (probably because many have.  some even on this board).  my inclination is to feel for people who are being unfairly mobbed up on.  i'm on board with the fact that kv should face some harsh consequences and that she should never, ever do this again (though i'm sure she's well aware of that herself at this point).  but some of the over-the-top outrage is what gets to me. 

the person who should be *most* outraged, in my view, is mm -- and she seems to be handling it all with more grace and poise than the average observer.
Title: Re: How Opal Mehta got plagiarized...
Post by: steph on April 26, 2006, 06:06 PM
Melanie,

Yes, I posted Monday morning regarding this, and my position has not changed.  The agent, editor, packagers all are culpable.

Actually since my post on Monday, I happened upon an article ( pre-scandal) that KV did with a local paper. In reading the details of the deal in KV's own words, I was more convinced than ever that KV did not act alone.


** okay here's the actually link

http://www.northjersey.com/page.php?qstr=eXJpcnk3ZjczN2Y3dnFlZUVFeXkxNjcmZmdiZWw3Zjd2cWVlRUV5eTY5MTI1MjAmeXJpcnk3ZjcxN2Y3dnFlZUVFeXk3
 
Title: Re: How Opal Mehta got plagiarized...
Post by: jadedmetaphor on April 26, 2006, 06:12 PM
On a different note for those of you wishing that KV has her advance taken back, what if, she is only one small cog in this wheel of deceit - wouldn't her only incentive to keeping her mouth shut and 'falling on her sword' be the advance - let's call it, oh I don't know, hush money. :yup

Considering how much KV's parents paid to help get her into Harvard, if there really was some big conspiracy (and I seriously doubt there is), I doubt $500k makes enough difference in their life to be worth KV's dignity.
Title: Re: How Opal Mehta got plagiarized...
Post by: steph on April 26, 2006, 06:19 PM
No, but the shame of the removal of the contract and no second book might! I'm going with my gut on this one and from the beginning it has been telling me smoke meet fire.

*Just to clarify - I don't see it as a 'big conspiracy. I see it as an ugly underbelly of the publishing world, and this is not an isolated case.
Title: Re: How Opal Mehta got plagiarized...
Post by: Paulahy on April 26, 2006, 07:31 PM
Someone stop me.  I can't stop reading this thread!!!

And I will give up trying to figure out whose post I'm responding to.  However, someone brought up a very good point about the fact that the author can't use her age both ways (to defend her actions as the young nave and to promote herself as the young prodigy author genius).

It's just too convenient.

Yes, I too feel the publisher, packager and all those who touched the book need to stop with the "she's such a sweet girl and would never do this on purpose" and just admit they screwed up and now plan to launch a $500K educational program full of PSA's and print ads talking about the evils of plagirism.

As far as the packager issue - I can only speak from the perspective of a reader on this.  When I read Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants and The A-List Back in Black, I had no idea a packager was involved.  Yet both books seemed to be missing something, one of those, can't put your hands on what, qualities.  Later, I was able to say for Sisterhood, I never got a clear picture in my head of the characters.  So I felt the descriptions weren't as vivid.  For Back in Black, the plot was super thin.

When I found out they were produced by packagers, in my mind, that explained some of their voids.  I didn't find out until after I'd read them.  Well after for Sisterhood, about a month later for the other.

I am NOT saying packaged books are bad.  I am saying that when a packager becomes involved you know that the publisher is looking to distribute en masse and churn out books at a much faster pace than a single author could ever do alone.  So no surprise the books may not have the depth of non-packaged books.

Opal certainly does nothing to boost the image of packaged books. 

The more links I read with passages from Opal, the more this thing stinks to the heavens. 

-P
Title: Re: How Opal Mehta got plagiarized...
Post by: Jen on April 26, 2006, 07:40 PM
Here's an interesting article from the Harvard Independent...

http://www.harvardindependent.com/ViewArticle.aspx?ArticleID=9933

It's an interview with a former 17th Street editor, about how the packaging process works.  Nothing specific to this case, but more info on the general procedures...
Title: Re: How Opal Mehta got plagiarized...
Post by: steph on April 26, 2006, 07:47 PM

Thanks for that link Jen! WOW! :reading2:
Title: Re: How Opal Mehta got plagiarized...
Post by: writeaway on April 26, 2006, 08:19 PM
I just read the posted link and it was very informative. I guess I'm still trying to figure out if packaging is beneficial to a writer. We know it is to the packager. Has anyone heard of Parachute Publishing? (www.parachutepublishing.com).  That name has come up a few times and now I'm sort of understanding what it is.
Title: Re: How Opal Mehta got plagiarized...
Post by: richmond8 on April 26, 2006, 08:32 PM
Great article about the book packager.  So the packager would have gotten "a hefty chunk of the advance, up to half, plus a cut of royalties."

The existence of the packager in this scene I think will ultimately make KV less culpable.  It sounds tremendously chaotic, and how can a 17-year old girl possibly stand up to high pressure commercial people?  

Not that I think she didn't do it, but with all these hands in the pot, each person is going to feel less responsible for what comes out. (and I think she is in the front rank of the first generation of kids who grew up on the web, and find it all too easy to pick and grab from sources without really coming to grips with the fact that they're plagiarizing.)  

I think the book packager is going to end up taking a big part of the rap.  Some of these publishers are trying to make big bucks producing books by sidestepping the usual ways of going about it--where someone is truly author of the product--and they shouldn't be surprised when the product ends up being tainted.  

Not that packagers are necessarily low-life, but when no one is individually responsible, and the bottom line is the end-all, what can they expect?
Title: Re: How Opal Mehta got plagiarized...
Post by: Athena529 on April 26, 2006, 08:56 PM
The NY Times had this article on the thickening plot and Alloy:

http://www.nytimes.com/2006/04/27/books/27pack.html?_r=1&oref=slogin
Title: Re: How Opal Mehta got plagiarized...
Post by: jadedmetaphor on April 26, 2006, 09:52 PM
The NY Times had this article on the thickening plot and Alloy:

http://www.nytimes.com/2006/04/27/books/27pack.html?_r=1&oref=slogin

Very interesting article! Thanks!

I think the ending speaks for itself:

"Little, Brown, for one, was not blaming Alloy. 'Our understanding is that Kaavya wrote the book herself, so any problems are entirely the result of her writing and not the result of the packager's involvement in the book,' said Michael Pietsch, the publisher.

Even officials at Random House, the parent company of Ms. McCafferty's publisher, said they did not consider Alloy responsible. 'Most relationships with packagers and book producers have been relatively free of the kinds of problems cited in the coverage of this story,' said Mr. Applebaum, the spokesman, 'and beneficial for all concerned.'"

Title: Re: How Opal Mehta got plagiarized...
Post by: Frainstorm on April 26, 2006, 10:19 PM
I don't know if I'm more naive than the rest of you, but my jaw is in a perpetual state of astonishment. Did I know book packagers existed? Yes. But I had no idea of the extent. Right now, one book packager owns three of ten slots in the children's best seller list. That's amazing for my ignorant mind. And that's just one packager.

I feel like I just discovered that not only Santa Claus isn't for real (sorry if I blew that for anyone out there), but my parents never got me any gifts either; that nasty great uncle the family doesn't talk about got paid to buy and wrap the gifts every year.

I'm just shaking my head wondering now if it's pre-ordained if I'm ever gonna get published.

John
Title: Re: How Opal Mehta got plagiarized...
Post by: Paulahy on April 27, 2006, 05:05 AM
Great, great links!

John, you are not alone.  Let me tell you, I read Sweet Valley High as a teen and loved them.  I didn't find out they were the product of packaging until four years ago.  I didn't find out about the Sisterhood until last year and discovered the truth about Gossip Girls and The A-List earlier this year.  With each discovery I'm less and less shocked.  But the original revelation left me feeling like you - like it was all a lie.

There's something about the whole thing that takes the passion out of writing. 

You come to sites like this where people write because they feel driven to.  Because they have stories inside of them screaming to get out.  The whole packaging process seems to dilute it down to a corporate fundamental - let's make lotsa lotsa dough.  And it kind of hurts my stomach.

I don't mean to come off self-righteous.  God knows I'm all for making money.  I kind of have to in order to keep a roof over my head.  But to date, except for SVH (which I read when I was like 12 or 13) I haven't picked up any of the packaged products mentioned and felt fulfilled with the end product.

And - I did not go into reading them with a bias.  I didn't find out about them until after I had read them - usually well after reading them.

I mean no disrespect to writers who have been authors of these books or any other.  I'm just saying for me, as a reader, I haven't read a packaged book (that I'm aware) that left me feeling the same as when I put down a Stephen King or James Patterson or Karen Robey Lawson.

Yeah, none of those are high literary material by any means.  But my gut knows when it really enjoyed a good book.  For those Seinfeld fans it's the difference between faking it (oooh, I loved that book...er, I mean a little) and the feeling you get after eating the risotto (mmmmm...ahhhh....ooooh....ummm...).  For those who can't speak Sein-language, just saying, I know when I think a book is weirdly generic and somewhat toneless vs. really good and had an authentic voice and the author really put their foot in it. 

I will gladly keep my mind open and continue to read any book that captures my interest.  If something by a packager comes by and I like it, I'll admit it.  Just hasn't happened yet....um, since I've been an adult.

Oh, and Writeaway about whether it's beneficial to the author....I'm going to lean towards "maybe."  I'm sure there are some work-for-hire authors who have come away from that process with a strong enough tie with the publisher that they experienced success on their own.

But, I wouldn't be surprised if that number was fairly low.

-P

Title: Re: How Opal Mehta got plagiarized...
Post by: sheela chari on April 27, 2006, 06:10 AM
I swore to myself I wouldn't respond more on the subject...but!

I just had another question/comment, now that Alloy was brought up in this thread. In today's NYT article (the one that I believe Athena provided the link to), KV states that Alloy only helped her with the first four chapters and outline -- that too, she said that most Alloy's input was minor editing. After Little, Brown bought the book, the editing was done entirely by them. So my question is, why does Alloy share in the copyright of Opal if its only input in the book were editing the first 4 chapters at the mss shopping stage? This might just be a general packager question, but I thought it was relevant here. Anyone know?

Okay back to  :typing: 
Title: Re: How Opal Mehta got plagiarized...
Post by: Jenny Moss on April 27, 2006, 06:27 AM

I didn't find out about the Sisterhood until last year and discovered the truth about Gossip Girls and The A-List earlier this year.


Hey, Miss P.  I think Sisterhood might be in a different category.  Ann Brashares did work for a book packager, but the idea for Sisterhood was hers.  It was my impression that she wrote the books; because she worked for a packager, people assume her books are "packaged."  But you've got me wondering if she wrote them completely on her own.  Here's an interview:  http://www.powells.com/authors/brashares.html


Title: Re: How Opal Mehta got plagiarized...
Post by: richmond8 on April 27, 2006, 06:58 AM
I love this:  "For publishers, the appeal [of book packagers] is that the packagers will take care of jobs like copy-editing and designing book covers."  Well, what do publishers do then, anymore?  If they are looking to packagers for authors and for editing, how is our subbing books to publishers going to get us published?

I'm disillusioned by the book packaging too.  It doesn't sound good for the rest of us, does it?  There are the celebrity books too, and have you noticed another permutation of this, the popular nonfiction adult book, like about salt or the cod or some famous figure, that also shows up in a kids' version later?
Title: Re: How Opal Mehta got plagiarized...
Post by: Paulahy on April 27, 2006, 06:59 AM
Hey Ette.  I'm not sure.  You may be right that she, like Viswanathan, was a different type of packaging.  Maybe it was just her way to go from editor to author.  She had the ties with Alloy so she used them.

-P
Title: Re: How Opal Mehta got plagiarized...
Post by: Paulahy on April 27, 2006, 07:06 AM
Well, what do publishers do then, anymore?  If they are looking to packagers for authors and for editing, how is our subbing books to publishers going to get us published?

I think this quote from Lizzie Skurnik in the Crimson article answers your question, Richmond:

“A packager basically serves as both the writer and editor of a book,” Skurnick said in a phone interview. “The advantage for a publishing house is they don’t have to do anything — they don’t have to design the book, they don’t have to think about a concept…. They can just say, ‘Here’s $80,000 for twelve of these books.’ They don’t have to do any of the work.”

As far as how we get published - keep plugging at it.  Packaging has been around for a long time but seems to have gotten a surge with the success of Gossip Girls and the like.  Yet there are still plenty of publishers looking for original material.

We can't lose faith in the system...let's just look to those who succeed outside of packaging.

My concern?  Books by, I'll call us non-packaged authors, simply can't compete with packaged books that get the lion's share of dollars put into marketing them.  I've got to work with whatever my publisher will do and whatever my shoe string budget can handle.

Again, the answer is keep plugging. 

-P
Title: Re: How Opal Mehta got plagiarized...
Post by: Melanie on April 27, 2006, 08:12 AM
here's a link to lizzie skurnik's ruminations on that interview:

http://www.theoldhag.com/

just confirms my suspicions that kv is the one going down in flames for something that took a whole team and a couple of years to put together.
Title: Re: How Opal Mehta got plagiarized...
Post by: Sudipta on April 27, 2006, 09:28 AM
It would be interesting to see if other packaged books from Alloy contain the same kinds of copying as Opal did -- because failing that, I would find it impossible to believe that a corporation would open itself up to a huge lawsuit for something they were already paid for.  Remember, Alloy wasn't trying to sell Opal to LB after it was written, and therefore needed to make it "good" -- LB prepaid and would have published anything that was written.  Where is the upside for Alloy to tell KV to go ahead and copy someone else's work?  They wouldn't get any more money in the advance, and if it was found out, they would potentially lose sales and get sued.  Not a good business model.

On the other hand, since Alloy was prepaid, they also had no incentive to edit KV's manuscript at all.  Why didn't anyone catch the similarities before?  Maybe because no one spent any time reading the manuscript apart from running spell check.  After all, there were other projects they were working on that still needed to be sold, and those would get the most attention.

I would believe that someone at Alloy told KV, "go read MM's books and write something like that."  And she did -- exactly like that, in places.  But to tell her, "go copy parts of MM's novels -- not the really good parts, either, but some of the mediocre ones," seems ridiculous. 
Title: Re: How Opal Mehta got plagiarized...
Post by: almarrone on April 27, 2006, 09:53 AM
http://www.publishersmarketplace.com/lunch/Passages.pdf

Sorry if this link had been posted already--but it details all forty something plagarized passages side by side. Gotta say--some of them are a really nitpicky and I think using the word "uppercrust" to describe the top dogs at school or "dreg" for a stoner is fairly common.   It may be that these phrases come up in similar places in each story and that's what makes them suspect--if that's not the case the rest of us will have to try harder to avoid some common language lest we're accused of copying.

While there were some that I didn't think had merit, there are plenty that do. 
Title: Re: How Opal Mehta got plagiarized...
Post by: Jen on April 27, 2006, 10:34 AM
I don't know how all contracts read, but the ones I've seen say something about a contract not being final until a final revision is accepted. A publisher does not have to publish the book and may ask for fifty percent of the advance returned.


But when the fifty percent that they lose is six figures, chances are, they're not going to ask for it back.  They invested so much up front that I really don't think there is ANY way they would have backed out of the project.
Title: Re: How Opal Mehta got plagiarized...
Post by: Sudipta on April 27, 2006, 10:36 AM
Not to mention, as long as the author has made a "good faith" effort to make the MS acceptable, it is almost impossible to get the advance back, at any figure.  Also, almost impossible to prove that someone hasn't made a good faith effort.
Title: Re: How Opal Mehta got plagiarized...
Post by: TracyH on April 27, 2006, 12:44 PM
I heard an editor from Alloy speak about six months ago.  I too was shocked to find out that Sisterhood was their creation.  He said that Alloy comes up with the concepts and that they also outline the entire novel.  I'm sure there are cases where the author brings them the concept, and he said the author definitely has creative input, but my impression after he spoke was that the author is basically a puppet - that the author answers to Alloy, not the other way around.  So KV's claim that Alloy was only in on the first four chapters isn't sitting well with me.  Alloy has too much on the line to be that disinterested.  One of the first things this man said when he was presenting was how many books Alloy has on the best seller list.  This is why they make the big bucks.  This is why the publishing houses don't want to make them mad.  If Random House doesn't tread lightly, Alloy might pull all business from them in the future.  And that would be kissing lots of mula goodbye.  Who knows?  Maybe KV had to sign a confidentiality agreement.  I wouldn't put it past them.

Given the liklihood that KV was handed a detailed outline and told to fill in the blanks, how far of a stretch would it have been in her mind to just lift the basic ideas from other novels she had read?

And I find it very fishy that one of the Alloy editors involved with the creation of "Opal" was also the editor or assistant editor on MM's books.  Usually I am not a conspiracy theorist.  I honestly believe that Oswald killed Kennedy.  But this stuff is getting rediculous.
Title: Re: How Opal Mehta got plagiarized...
Post by: Mrs. Jones on April 27, 2006, 12:48 PM
An interesting point, about 'good faith.'  I would assume that 40 plus paragraphs which include plagiarized phrases, sentences, etc. would indicate the author DID NOT act in 'good faith.'

I looked at the contract I have with my agent, and there is a clause that states clearly I must be the sole owner of my own work.  That it IS my work.  Hard to believe anyone acting in 'good faith' would present work that's not their own(especially to that degree) and think it's a decent thing to do.  Especially after signing a contract which must have included the same sort of language.

I would think the responsible adults in her life would encourage KV to return the advance.  Personal integrity is what's missing here --- and there are only so many ways she's going to be able to look at herself in a mirror again.  Returning the money might get her started in that direction.

Just my opinion.
Title: Re: How Opal Mehta got plagiarized...
Post by: steph on April 27, 2006, 03:10 PM

And I find it very fishy that one of the Alloy editors involved with the creation of "Opal" was also the editor or assistant editor on MM's books.  Usually I am not a conspiracy theorist.  I honestly believe that Oswald killed Kennedy.  But this stuff is getting rediculous.

Tracy, that is very interesting. Where did you find that out?
Title: Re: How Opal Mehta got plagiarized...
Post by: Robin on April 27, 2006, 03:44 PM
Novelist Lev Grossman was speaking on All Things Considered this afternoon about plagiarism and Opal.  I think the audio version will be available later tonight, but he was comparing Kaavya with Melissa Jareo (whose Star Wars fanfiction was for sale on Amazon) and Geraldine Brooks, whose book March won a Pulitzer last week.


http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=5367135

robin
Title: Re: How Opal Mehta got plagiarized...
Post by: Aud on April 27, 2006, 03:45 PM
Steph, it was mentioned in the NY Times article, which is linked on page 7 of this thread. Her name is Claudia Gabel.
Title: Re: How Opal Mehta got plagiarized...
Post by: dwrites on April 27, 2006, 03:47 PM
And I find it very fishy that one of the Alloy editors involved with the creation of "Opal" was also the editor or assistant editor on MM's books.

Ooooh, yeah, I didn't know that. But since this story broke the thing that's bothered me is the Alloy connection. My understanding is that the writing is specific to the predetermined outlines and even detailed character profiles. Not to excuse KV at all in this, but if Alloy was involved in plot development and works like most book packagers, over the shoulder of the author, then there would be no excuse for not recognizing MM's style and themes. So wouldn't they also have checked the paragraphs in question for authenticity? I don't buy it that they didn't.

The whole thing reeks.

Diana
Title: Re: How Opal Mehta got plagiarized...
Post by: jadedmetaphor on April 27, 2006, 03:51 PM
The NY Times had this article on the thickening plot and Alloy:

http://www.nytimes.com/2006/04/27/books/27pack.html?_r=1&oref=slogin

This article Athena529 posted yesterday articulated Alloy's connection. It's the source of the bit about that editor who worked on both projects. She only worked on Opal Mehta in its conceptual stages. Regardless, the article explains why Alloy should not be to blame, despite this connecting editor.  Unless further evidence arises showing otherwise, accusations against Alloy and the editor seem unfounded.

Title: Re: How Opal Mehta got plagiarized...
Post by: steph on April 27, 2006, 04:19 PM


Thanks all for the link.

Well that was another interesting bit of info.

For the record, I haven't read anything on this thread that would be construed as 'accusations'.
What I am hearing is opinions and suppositions. That word has a harsh connotation.


Title: Re: How Opal Mehta got plagiarized...
Post by: steph on April 27, 2006, 04:55 PM


 The following link from Yahoo states that the books are being pulled from the stores.

http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20060427/ap_en_ot/young_author;_ylt=AkdUhp6A.0QW72XE1oOYZHxxFb8C;_ylu=X3oDMTA5aHJvMDdwBHNlYwN5bmNhdA--
Title: Re: How Opal Mehta got plagiarized...
Post by: dwrites on April 27, 2006, 05:06 PM
Hmmm, the NY Times article was interesting but I'm still not convinced. Steph, I think Liz meant "accusations" in general, from the press, the public, outsiders, not from people on this board. I can't stay away from this thread. It's addicting.

Diana
Title: Re: How Opal Mehta got plagiarized...
Post by: Jen on April 27, 2006, 05:10 PM
Has anyone else noticed the Little, Brown is now saying that the advance was less than the well-reported 500,000 and was split between Kaavya and Alloy? 
Title: Re: How Opal Mehta got plagiarized...
Post by: steph on April 27, 2006, 05:13 PM
Yeah, still lots of unanswered questions - or answers to questions that i'm not sure i'm buying.

LOL! Just wanted to make clear that I don't think anyone here has 'accused' anyone of anything, but in re-reading the post I think you're right Diana.

Apologies to Jaded if I misunderstood ;D
Title: Re: How Opal Mehta got plagiarized...
Post by: steph on April 27, 2006, 05:20 PM
Jen,

One of the links above - I believe the crimson article with 'the old hag' (sorry that's her blog can't remember her name) mentions that up to half of an advance can go to the packager. Now we hear that LB says the advance was for less than the reported amount. Take away the agent's cut and she isn't left with much.

In the link to the NY times story above - it says that the actual deal was signed between LB and Alloy - I found that interesting.
Title: Re: How Opal Mehta got plagiarized...
Post by: Melanie on April 27, 2006, 05:57 PM
i don't know, it seems to me that the publishers and packagers would have more to gain by sticking with each other on this story than by supporting the writer.  they make each other lots of money, no?  they have established relationships where they have made lots of money together, and my hunch is that they would want to continue that relationship. 

what would a young writer who has fallen from grace have to offer either of them? 

i agree with diana -- it all reeks (and that this thread is addictive).
Title: Re: How Opal Mehta got plagiarized...
Post by: sheela chari on April 27, 2006, 07:01 PM
To continue with what Melanie and others wrote, this is why I wonder why Alloy gets a share of the copyright for simply assistingin the preconceptual phase.

And this is just my two cents, but generally NYT errs on the conservative side when it comes to sources. Meaning, they won't print something unless they're 100% sure.
You might notice that when the KV item came out on Sunday, NYT didn't report on it until Tuesday, when people were actually making statements. So I find it interesting
today to see an article in NYT about KV and plagiarism and right next to it, one on Alloy with the headlines "First, Plot and Character. Then, Find an Author."
Hmm...doesn't sound like Alloy is so out of the picture just yet.
Title: Re: How Opal Mehta got plagiarized...
Post by: jadedmetaphor on April 27, 2006, 08:03 PM
Don't  know if somebody mentioned this yet or not (I could have missed it) but there is a review from a 7th grader at Amazon who says there is nothing wrong with what she did. How sad.
Only time for quick post-

It's especially sad, considering Little, Brown isn't going to take any action against KV and even Megan McCafferty, herself, said she won't seek restitution (not that it sounded like she could get it, anyway). I respect her right to choose, but I hope adults will be able to explain to children like the 7th grader why what happened was wrong...

http://www.thecrimson.com/article.aspx?ref=513121
Title: Re: How Opal Mehta got plagiarized...
Post by: Vijaya on April 27, 2006, 08:04 PM
a review from a 7th grader at Amazon who says there is nothing wrong with what she did.

 :faint:  

What next?
Title: Re: How Opal Mehta got plagiarized...
Post by: Jen on April 27, 2006, 08:20 PM
Only time for quick post-

It's especially sad, considering Little, Brown isn't going to take any action against KV and even Megan McCafferty, herself, said she won't seek restitution (not that it sounded like she could get it, anyway). I respect her right to choose, but I hope adults will be able to explain to children like the 7th grader why what happened was wrong...

http://www.thecrimson.com/article.aspx?ref=513121

Even if Little, Brown doesn't sue, Dreamworks still could.  At this point, if they decide against making a movie and have a standard originality clause in their contracts, they could cut their losses by getting the money back.  Somehow, though, I think they're more likely to just let the option expire if they decide not to make a movie.
Title: Re: How Opal Mehta got plagiarized...
Post by: Pickles on April 27, 2006, 08:24 PM
There's another jr. high student in a much earlier review, but still post-scandal, who says the same thing and calls MM jealous and very old. Ha! And there are two other posts, which I supsect are written by the same person, which say we shouldn't feel sorry for MM because she's getting so much free publicity. Heavy sigh.
Title: Re: How Opal Mehta got plagiarized...
Post by: DerekJ on April 27, 2006, 09:01 PM
Even if Little, Brown doesn't sue, Dreamworks still could.  At this point, if they decide against making a movie and have a standard originality clause in their contracts, they could cut their losses by getting the money back.  Somehow, though, I think they're more likely to just let the option expire if they decide not to make a movie.

"Originality clause"?....DREAMWORKS?? 

Face it, this is The House That Plagiarism Built, where it's treated like a code of honor--These two lonely people on the planet were made for each other...
If there was a "no-plagiarism clause" in any of Dreamworks' productions, none of their animated films would have ever been MADE.    :pp
Title: Re: How Opal Mehta got plagiarized...
Post by: ecb on April 27, 2006, 10:22 PM
One of the links above - I believe the crimson article with 'the old hag' (sorry that's her blog can't remember her name) mentions that up to half of an advance can go to the packager. Now we hear that LB says the advance was for less than the reported amount. Take away the agent's cut and she isn't left with much.

Hmmm.... how much less, though?  For a 2 book deal, assuming William Morris got the standard 15% and Alloy got half of the remainder... that still leaves just about $100,000 for KV for OPAL.

So unless the real advance was SUBSTANTIALLY less than reported... say, $475,000 less... I'd say she still makes out pretty well.
Title: Re: How Opal Mehta got plagiarized...
Post by: Paulahy on April 28, 2006, 05:04 AM
There's another jr. high student in a much earlier review, but still post-scandal, who says the same thing and calls MM jealous and very old. Ha! And there are two other posts, which I supsect are written by the same person, which say we shouldn't feel sorry for MM because she's getting so much free publicity. Heavy sigh.

And this is why LB and Alloy need to do a  very expensive joint education campaign on the evils of plagirism.  Say about $500K worth of PSA's and print ads directed at kids in age from 6-18. 

The opportunity to educate on why this is wrong is staring them right in the face!!!  Matter of fact, the whole industry may as well get in on it instead of expecting an entitiy like the Author's Guild or Assoc of Journalist to tackle it.  The people that publish the work should educate b/c their pockets are deeper and more capable of doing a wide spread and comprehensive campaign.

At this point, as addictive as reading about this is for me, - and I'm scooping up every new piece, but I'm highly disappointed that none of the companies have thought about this.  Where are the corporate PR people in all this?  Why aren't they advising them to do this?  I know I would in their position!!!


-P
Title: Re: How Opal Mehta got plagiarized...
Post by: lurban on April 28, 2006, 05:39 AM
You all heard that LB is pulling the books, right?
Title: Re: How Opal Mehta got plagiarized...
Post by: Paulahy on April 28, 2006, 05:46 AM
Yup, we heard.  There's a link somewhere on page 8 to the Yahoo story about the book being pulled.

Step 2 - education campaign on plagirsim.

Sorry, total broken record on this issue.  ;D

-P
Title: Re: How Opal Mehta got plagiarized...
Post by: steph on April 28, 2006, 06:28 AM
Hmmm.... how much less, though?  For a 2 book deal, assuming William Morris got the standard 15% and Alloy got half of the remainder... that still leaves just about $100,000 for KV for OPAL.

So unless the real advance was SUBSTANTIALLY less than reported... say, $475,000 less... I'd say she still makes out pretty well.

Regardless of what money she is left with (considering it was a 2 book deal and I think it's doubtful # 2 will be written).

This is so not about money.  I think she would pay double what she received as an advance to restore her reputation.

So KV's  punishment, book removed, most likely no second book, problems at Harvard, can't begin to know the damage to reputation (time will tell), possibly having remaining money removed. 

This was an initial run of 100,000 books. I'm curious to know how many books were actually left to be removed. Based on that I'm not sure how much monetary damage was done to  the publisher.

What about Alloy/17th Street Productions - did they keep their share of the advance?


Forgot about the agent (you know the one that connected her with Alloy ) should she have to return her fee?
Title: Re: How Opal Mehta got plagiarized...
Post by: KDBrazil on April 28, 2006, 06:36 AM
They do say though that KV is rewriting those passages in question. So it seems as if they will re-issue the book at some point.
Title: Re: How Opal Mehta got plagiarized...
Post by: steph on April 28, 2006, 06:45 AM
You're right, I read that in the original blurb about standing by the author blah, blah and that they would correct in the next run.

Yesterday eve when they announced they would pull the book (funny though late last night it seemed you could still get a copy at Amazon) I didn't read it as 'we will scrap first edition and get second edition to stores asap'.

But, I think you're right, like I said above who knows how many books were left to pull, could be a 'collector's item' in the future (I know sad but true) and the next edition will be MM free.

I think it will be interesting to see what's left in of the 40 or so disputed excerpts. I know there are clearly excerpts that were ripped from MM but there seems to be some disagreement on how much was MM's and how much is just how teens naturally talk.
Title: Re: How Opal Mehta got plagiarized...
Post by: Jaina on April 28, 2006, 06:59 AM
"New Coke," anyone?
Title: Re: How Opal Mehta got plagiarized...
Post by: Anne Marie on April 28, 2006, 07:03 AM
Steph,

You said it could be a collector's item.  They're already selling them on eBay.

AM
Title: Re: How Opal Mehta got plagiarized...
Post by: Athena529 on April 28, 2006, 07:12 AM
MM has made a (gracious) statement regarding the scandal (excerpt taken from NY Times article):


"Ms. McCafferty, who until now has remained silent, also issued a statement last night.

'In the case of Kaavya Viswanathan's plagiarizing of my novels 'Sloppy Firsts' and 'Second Helpings,'  she said, 'I wish to inform all of the parties involved that I am not seeking restitution in any form.

'The past few weeks have been very difficult, and I am most grateful to my readers for offering continual support, and for reminding me what Jessica Darling means to both them and to me. In my career, I am, first and foremost, a writer. So I look forward to getting back to work and moving on, and hope Ms. Viswanathan can, too.'

Ms. Viswanathan, reached last night, declined to comment."

Title: Re: How Opal Mehta got plagiarized...
Post by: almarrone on April 28, 2006, 07:13 AM
 think it will be interesting to see what's left in of the 40 or so disputed excerpts. I know there are clearly excerpts that were ripped from MM but there seems to be some disagreement on how much was MM's and how much is just how teens naturally talk.

There were definately a few spots that I thought were plain old teen speak.
Title: Re: How Opal Mehta got plagiarized...
Post by: steph on April 28, 2006, 07:14 AM
Really, are they just offering 'Opal'  on  E-bay or are they offering 'Sloppy' as well.

How many books do you suppose are left today to 'remove'.


That does sound like a gracious statement from MM.
Title: Re: How Opal Mehta got plagiarized...
Post by: Pickles on April 28, 2006, 07:53 AM
I saw Opal going on ebay for over $35 a couple of days ago. Sloppy firsts was also available. But so are a lot of books. I briefly searched for other relatively recent titles off the top of my head. You can find Storky on e-bay. So it's not unusual to find books on ebay, but it did seem odd people were willing to pay over double and this was a couple of days BEFORE the yank was announced. I'm guessing, people anticipated the yank.

-k.
Title: Re: How Opal Mehta got plagiarized...
Post by: Jennie_1551 on April 28, 2006, 07:55 AM
Sorry if these have been posted, but I found them very informative, and entertaining, too!

How Kaavya Got Packaged and Got Into Trouble: Plagiarism and the teen-marketing culture.
By Ann Hulbert
http://www.slate.com/id/2140683/

I Coulda Been a Pretender: How I didn't end up like that Harvard sophomore accused of plagiarizing her novel.
By John Barlow
http://www.slate.com/id/2140620/

J.
Title: Re: How Opal Mehta got plagiarized...
Post by: fuego80027 on April 28, 2006, 08:27 AM
I have been reading this thread now for a few days and I do have to wonder if KV does try and publish another book will she have an extremely hard time in doing so or will it be looked at with heavy scrutiny?
Title: Re: How Opal Mehta got plagiarized...
Post by: Jen on April 28, 2006, 09:06 AM
PW is reporting that the movie deal has been scratched, and that it's unclear whether the book will be reissued...
Title: Re: How Opal Mehta got plagiarized...
Post by: NDM on April 28, 2006, 10:03 AM
Thanks, Jen.  Anyone else read the Sara Nelson article in PW?  Great read on the role of marketing and packaging in the publishing world.

http://www.publishersweekly.com/article/CA6329232.html?display=breaking
Title: Re: How Opal Mehta got plagiarized...
Post by: Paulahy on April 28, 2006, 10:05 AM
OMG, why can't I stop reading this thread?  Why can't I stop blogging about this thing?

I don't know about anyone else.  But I think it's because it touches my buttons on so many different levels - the way the business works, the unlevel playing field, the deceit that rolls so easily off the backs of big business, the whole dang train wreck in progress of it all.

Watching a young author's career de-railed over a week has not been a pleasure.  I wish Kaavya only good things for the future.  This is a tough, public lesson.

Yet, I cannot help but look back on my own journey to become published and think - we all make choices and we have to live with them.

::Sigh:::

This has touched me way more than the whole James Frey thing...guess cause it's YA.

-P
Title: Re: How Opal Mehta got plagiarized...
Post by: NDM on April 28, 2006, 10:39 AM
I agree, P.  I guess, for me, it's because I feel that could have been any one of us at nineteen.  I remember the stupid mistakes I made then, and the desire to be published, acknowledged, appreciated, recognized, rewarded . . . heck, LOVED, was so painfully intense then.  Who knows what decisions I would have made, had a publishing giant waved a half-mil check in my face, a packager offered to help me write the whole thing, and dreamworks wanted to make a movie out of it (while at the same time having to stay on top of my schoolwork at harvard)? 

Hard to say. ::shrug::  I just know I'm in no position to moralize on this one.  And, yes, it has affected me deeply as well.  It's like seeing the ugliest side of the business we're in as YA writers.  Sara Nelson's words from her PW article really hit home for me:
Realizing that a major house is willing to pay major money for a book that executives knew was going to require major work smacks of something majorly disturbing. It suggests that even the most well-bred publishing houses are not as desperate to find promising writers and great novels as they are to find attractive authors (preferably with interesting backstories) with whom they can match up test-marketed, packaged stories. And then they can take all the credit.

Or blame, as the case may be.
  :feelbad:

(emoticon not part of original quote)
Title: Re: How Opal Mehta got plagiarized...
Post by: DerekJ on April 28, 2006, 11:02 AM
Watching a young author's career de-railed over a week has not been a pleasure.  I wish Kaavya only good things for the future.  This is a tough, public lesson.

A "young author" would have blown us away with her own material--
Intentional plagiarism, OTOH, is the writing equivalent of stuffing a cucumber down your pants (or tissue paper down your sweater, depending on gender metaphor), and "unintentional" plagiarism, if that's the story she's sticking with, is just plain sad.

I repeat that a writer can read many favorite authors, but a real author should know they're out there to drive up alongside those favorites, shout "What's that jalopy you're driving, Grandpa?", step on the gas pedal, and leave them behind in the dust...  :writing3:
Which seems to be the complaint we've raised about other "teen prodigy" authors so far, who seem to be very good at "assembling" their books from all the parroted material they've read...But at least Christopher Paolini and Flavia Bujor managed to rearrange their material differently.
Title: Re: How Opal Mehta got plagiarized...
Post by: lydap on April 28, 2006, 05:22 PM
I just posted a comment on the PW thread. Probably shouldn't have but it's Friday night and I've been biting my cyber-tongue (?) for nearly a week on this. It hits such a sore spot.

 :banghead:

I have been following this thread compulsively as well. And I agree with ndm. At 19 I would have done this in a heartbeat and never had a moment's question until the world came  crashing down on my head. You need a certain maturity, which doesn't necessarily correlate with chronological age, to have your own voice. Until you do, a writer with facility, ambition and connections is ripe for the pickings.

What an education this has been! I had no idea the role packagers played in this industry until this week.

 
Title: Re: How Opal Mehta got plagiarized...
Post by: Pickles on April 28, 2006, 10:21 PM
Geez, I feel like I'm watching Sick Sad World with Daria. People are selling copies of Opal on e-bay for up to $100. Not sure they've sold any at those prices, but they are asking up to that much.

It's disgusting.
Title: Re: How Opal Mehta got plagiarized...
Post by: Brenda on April 29, 2006, 03:45 AM
The thing that makes me angry (and yes, it is probably a tad selfish) is look at all the PR time and dollars spent on promoting this young author. Too bad this money couldn't be spent on a more legitimate author with a book coming out.

I can't help but think she got caught up in her own hype and believed she'd never get caught. Sad. Kind of like a train wreck. It hurts to watch but you can't help it.

Brenda
Title: Re: How Opal Mehta got plagiarized...
Post by: G.R. on April 29, 2006, 08:10 PM
Quote
I can't help but think she got caught up in her own hype and believed she'd never get caught. Sad. Kind of like a train wreck. It hurts to watch but you can't help it.


Tell me about it. :( I've been following this story in the paper all week, and everything about it just makes me sad.

If anything good comes out of this, I hope it's that publishers (as well as young writers) will be more conscientious in the future so these sorts of scandals happen less and less often.

But then again, considering how the publishing industry works these days, it's hard for them to discover things like plagiarism (in any kind of writing) or fabrication (in nonfiction) until it's too late. (That's probably why beginning writers will do whatever it takes to get published if they think they can get away with it -- from KV lifting passages from a couple of her favorite books, to James Frey selling a fictionalized account of his life as "memoir".)
Title: Re: How Opal Mehta got plagiarized...
Post by: ecb on April 30, 2006, 02:36 PM
Geez, I feel like I'm watching Sick Sad World with Daria.

Ok, this is completely OT, but that cracked me up.  Sigh.  I loved "Daria."  Ok, I *was* Daria....  (DH and I still say, "Sick, sad world," whenever something like this comes up...)
Title: Re: How Opal Mehta got plagiarized...
Post by: GreenBeans on May 01, 2006, 07:53 AM

Yes, this whole thing is a train wreck and sad and sick as well.

I'll be interested to see how this all ends up and what lasting repercussions (if any) this scandal has on the publishing world and how business is done.

I want to see if KV has to give any or all of her humongous advance back. (Oh wait! She hasn't admitted doing anything wrong. It was all her unconscious, doncha know) I want to see if the whole thing about young, pretty, and marketable "writers" goes away. It's all about the writing and someone's age or appearance should be irrelevant.

Also, isn't out and out plagiarism against the law? As in, people have gone to jail for much less?

Pathetic.

GB
Title: Re: How Opal Mehta got plagiarized...
Post by: Paulahy on May 01, 2006, 12:27 PM
Get thee behind me, Opal Metha.   :dr

Sorry, but it took me all weekend to stop obsessing over this story.  I was horribly addicted.  :feelbad:

I think I can honestly say I'm able to move on.  Whew.   :faint:

-P
Title: Re: How Opal Mehta got plagiarized...
Post by: HB on May 01, 2006, 03:36 PM
Warning: Long, cynical conspiracy rant ahead

I’m not ready to let Alloy off the hook yet. There have been too many contradictions with what they and the publisher have said about this book over the years as to the involvement of the packager to necessarily believe they’re telling the truth now.

1.   Publishers don’t care about scapegoating an author who’s name is now mud. But they can’t blame the company who might bring them the next Gossip Girls bonanza. So I’m cynical of both LB and Random House absolving Alloy of any wrongdoing. You don’t eat the goose that lays the golden eggs.
2.   The book required a lot more work than other packaged books they’ve done. No, wait, they were only involved in the first four chapters. Yeah, sure, they get to split copyright and a chunk of the advance and royalties for tweaking 4 chapters?
3.   The original MS was much darker and went through several versions to lighten it. Original MS? What original manuscript? We asked for an e-mail from the author to get an idea of her voice and then came up with the outline of a novel ourselves that would suit that voice. I think there were other creation myths to this novel as well but the news articles are starting to blur for me. It does make me wonder, did the girl write any of this herself or was she just a unique marketing spin to slap in the author bio?
4.   If Alloy did have a heavy hand in the writing of this book, how convenient for them that absolutely none of the plagiarized phrases were written by them.
5.   KV got a $500K advance for this and her next book. Woowee! This must be something darn special for us to pay this much to a 17 year old. Please send all your reporters out to cover this story. The editor, publisher, author, author’s parents, agent, guidance counselor and pet cat Fifi will be available for any and all interviews. Um, did we say $500K? No….that’s not quite right. No she didn’t get that much. Yeah, the packager would have received some of that. I swear, that one’s a double whammy. If you’re going to have your Harvard classmates bitter, and from what I understand, nasty at times, you should at least get to enjoy the thing they’re jealous about you having.
6.   The same editor is thanked in the acknowledgements of both books. Sure, she now claims she was only involved in the early part of Opal. But considering that a similar plot is one of the things KV has been accused of, you’d think even an early outline read by that editor would have uncovered it.
7.   By its very essence, book packaging is based on a lie. The fact that Francine Pascal’s name is on the front of every SVH is a lie. You may consider that a harsh statement. After all, it’s not like they’re trying to cover it up. All you have to do is read the copyright page. But let’s be realistic, who other than writers read the copyright page? And even at that, before this week, how many of us didn’t know how involved packagers were in some of the biggest selling series? But it’s a harmless lie. As long as good writing is there, readers don’t care who wrote it. Yeah, try telling that to Milli Vanilli. Their fans were *really* loyal to them after finding out they were just a couple pretty faces lip synching to the real voices behind the scenes. On the other hand, the real voices (don’t remember their names) tried to make a go of it after being outted. But they weren’t pretty enough so they failed. So in that way, maybe packagers are the most honest people in the publishing world. They acknowledge the disgustingly superficial world we live in and cater to it, matching decent writers with pretty faces for a single package that the general public laps up.
8.   And here’s something else. We’ve had discussions on this board about friends/family recognizing themselves in our stories. We care about their feelings and we don’t want them to get hurt. Soooooo, if you were a teenage East Indian on her way to Harvard with parents who are both doctors, would you write about a teenage East Indian on her way to Harvard with PSYCHO parents who are the exact same type of doctors as your parents? Sounds like a cute marketing ploy the packager came up with. And it worked, because the parents’ professions were mentioned in all the pre-plagiarism articles.
9.   Early on, some of us thought the plagiarism might have been unintentional, because logically, if you were capable of writing 300 good, funny pages, why would you go to the trouble of finding and inserting a few stolen phrases and potentially risk everything? How about this: the person who inserted those phrases had the specific job of adding sizzle to an otherwise average manuscript?
10.   KV is accepting the blame for writing all the phrases in question. Means nothing to me. Alloy and/or LB could have promised her great things to cover up the truth. Because if it turns out that Alloy employs ghostwriters who plagiarize, that taints every money-machine book that they have ever touched. None of the big publishers want that because they all love those money-machine books.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying I believe this to be true. I’m just saying it’s very possible. I don’t think we have a smoking gun here where we can say one way or the other what the truth is.

Maybe it was all KV’s doing and the rest of the bunch were clueless. Also very possible. Except for that one editor who worked on both books, I think it’s entirely realistic that no one involved in this book would have caught the similarities. If I read MM’s books three years ago, I can guarantee that Opal would look brand new to me. Personally, I think the people who tipped off the Crimson and MM are MM fanatics who have her books memorized.

Anyway, conspiracy theory now finished.  :P

Title: Re: How Opal Mehta got plagiarized...
Post by: steph on May 01, 2006, 03:44 PM
Oh God, I promised myself :x

HB, let me just say that you make a good case.
Title: Re: How Opal Mehta got plagiarized...
Post by: NDM on May 01, 2006, 05:53 PM
HB, :dr
You said much of what I've been thinking.
This is the thread that just won't die. 
So many of us keep having our eyes snapped back to it, especially when we vow never to return!
Title: Re: How Opal Mehta got plagiarized...
Post by: dwrites on May 01, 2006, 08:19 PM
*sticks finger down throat*

It just gets worse and worse. Bleh. Head up, chin high, fellow writers. Be proud of what you do.

Diana
Title: Re: How Opal Mehta got plagiarized...
Post by: Sudipta on May 01, 2006, 08:54 PM
Arghhh... I can't stay away either.

Just read the new Crimson article (thanks, Shirley!) and that's pretty much cemented it for me (not that there was a lot fo doubt in my mind) -- there was definitely intentional copying.  And I'd be shocked if anybody still believes that the packager put in the "lifted" phrases, since I doubt any YA editor would think, "let's grab some Salman Rushdie excerpts to make this really marketable to teens!"

Also, i would think that if someone at the packager was assigned to lift someone else's words to spice up the manuscript, instead of stealing from other published books and risk getting sued, they'd steal from their stack of manuscripts in progress.  After all, those authors could be sent back to
rewrite -- and since their words were not yet published, it would be much harder to prove the theft.

And now, I am banning myself from this thread for at least 24 hours.
Title: Re: How Opal Mehta got plagiarized...
Post by: els on May 01, 2006, 08:57 PM

Decoupage Novels! Cut and paste your favorite elements to really jazz up your own mediocrity.
Sigh.
Title: Re: How Opal Mehta got plagiarized...
Post by: Jen on May 01, 2006, 09:07 PM
It's funny- after I read the "makeover" passage (similar to Meg Cabot's Princess Diaries), I went into my WIP to take a closer look at the makeover scene, and I have to say- I really do think VK's copying is deliberate.  My scene has a lot of the same elements- being exfoliated, having your nails done, etc, and it ends with the girl realizing how different she looks than she looked before, but reading the passages side by side, they're one hundred percent completely different.  They sound different.  The characters sound different.  Things appear in different order, the rhythm of the sentences is different.  I think this just made me realize- there are SO MANY different ways to write this very generic kind of scene, and I really think that only one of them looks anything like the Cabot version, and that's Meg Cabot's.

Title: Re: How Opal Mehta got plagiarized...
Post by: Vijaya on May 01, 2006, 09:22 PM
Someone ban me ... this is just too horrible.  I really wish KV would stop lying on top of everything.
Vijaya
Title: Re: How Opal Mehta got plagiarized...
Post by: Liz on May 02, 2006, 05:17 AM
That's amazing!  It's like her 'photographic memory' is a Polaroid camera! 
She just presses a button and the phrases come out and all she has to do is change a word here or there, and copy the rest into her manuscript.
It's so sad that she won't just admit it.  Or that she didn't say -- 'Oh - you may find other passages that come from other books almost verbatim' --

I wonder of her Harvard professors will now be checking her papers for plagiarism.
Title: Re: How Opal Mehta got plagiarized...
Post by: Katiba on May 02, 2006, 05:31 AM
There are also allegations that she copied passages from Sophie Kinsella's (chick lit) Can You Keep A Secret?

To be fair, I read in another article that there are lots of rhyming road signs in India, which might account for the similarities to Rushdie's work.

I never believed the 'internalized' excuse.  I think either: she thought she was safe if she changed all the passages around and added words here and there - I thought that once upon a time, in fourth grade, though, not college.  Or, alternatively, that someone at Alloy was pissed at all the publicity and the huge advance she got, when she wasn't doing any of the work, and inserted the passages deliberately.  That seems crazy, because obviously Alloy would know who did it and even if the person isn't outed publicly, you can figure people in the industry would know (maybe?)

The whole thing is very, very sad.
Title: Re: How Opal Mehta got plagiarized...
Post by: GreenBeans on May 02, 2006, 06:40 AM

ShirleyH, I wondered the same thing. But I think she ought to have been old enough to go, "Holy Cow, they are offering me scads of money to write a book and I can't write a book (that's my own, anyway) AND go to school. Maybe I should take a year off school." Duh and double Duh.

If someone offered me that much to write a book, I'd take a year off from my life, which in no way resembles getting an education from Harvard. 

I'd go live in the mountains by myself and grow a beard. (Okay, not the beard part)

GB
Title: Re: How Opal Mehta got plagiarized...
Post by: Athena529 on May 02, 2006, 06:48 AM
Do you think she will leave Harvard? I imagine it would be difficult to show her face around campus (although wouldn't that make a great novel? The girl messes up, is scorned and ostracized, learns from her mistakes and finds redemption somehow... wonder if it's already in the works)
Title: Re: How Opal Mehta got plagiarized...
Post by: Athena529 on May 02, 2006, 06:58 AM
Here's the NY Times link that compares passages from "Opal" and "Secret."

http://www.nytimes.com/imagepages/2006/05/01/books/20060502_AUTHOR_GRAPHIC.html
Title: Re: How Opal Mehta got plagiarized...
Post by: GreenBeans on May 02, 2006, 07:23 AM

Yeah, and I'm sure that she was a Harvard student was part of the marketing ploy. No doubt.

GB
Title: Re: How Opal Mehta got plagiarized...
Post by: Paulahy on May 02, 2006, 07:45 AM
but reading the passages side by side, they're one hundred percent completely different.  They sound different.  The characters sound different.  Things appear in different order, the rhythm of the sentences is different.  I think this just made me realize- there are SO MANY different ways to write this very generic kind of scene

From the start this has been my take on why I felt the "unintentional" tag on the words "copying" were insincere.

Hardly any two writers have the same cadence to their sentence.  Not sure if any of you tuned in..but Miss Snark did a contest where the snarklings were to write a passage using the same 10 words.  None of the stories sounded the same.

I'm sorry, but internalization or not your voice is your voice.  And I'm not buying internalization.  Sure, you read someone's work and love it...doesn't mean you can mimic it exactly...not without copying that is!

All of us could get a writing assignment from the same editor and the editor could even say "And I want a chick-litty voice" and still I think our patterns, voice and word usage would vary widely.

I'm not buying the innocence.  I'm not buying the unintentional.

I'm not judging KV but the whole mess and all involved disgust me.  Not leaving the industry big-wigs or those close to KV out of my range of disdain.

I shouldn't take it so personally.  It's not about me.   :sb

But as I sit here juggling my book's release 10 months away - let's say it together, marketing hell-  writing a new book and revising a mss so it will sell...no, I don't have too much sympathy for her.  I just don't.  If I had a packager holding my  hand or doing the writing, my life would be so much easier...but also, I wouldn't be a novelist, I'd be a ghostwriter.  And that's not the path I chose to take.

Writing is hard.  Ask any writer!  Someone obviously forgot to tell KV that.

Oh and I echo Shirley's question - where were the parents in all this?!  Yeah, I thought I knew it all at 17, 18 and 21...but I didn't and my parents were always there when my know-it-all butt needed some guidance.

Off the soap box!  :faint:

-P
Title: Question! Re: How Opal Mehta got plagiarized...
Post by: EEnright on May 02, 2006, 07:59 AM
 
Hi all,


I am intrigued by this story now, with a lot of different feelings and opinions swirling around inside my head.
But what I need to know is:

Why would a publisher pay such a Huge advance to an unknown?  Is it because she's 17 and goes to Harvard?
Do well known authors (like Meg Cabot) really get paid this much?

Liz


???
Title: Re: How Opal Mehta got plagiarized...
Post by: lydap on May 02, 2006, 09:16 AM
Washington Post weighs in:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/05/01/AR2006050101272.html
Title: Re: How Opal Mehta got plagiarized...
Post by: Paulahy on May 02, 2006, 09:28 AM
Interesting link, Lydap!

If you're entire academic career was packaged, it only makes sense that your book be the same.

What a world.

-P
Title: Re: How Opal Mehta got plagiarized...
Post by: lydap on May 02, 2006, 09:31 AM
Indeed. $30,000 to buff your child into harvard and half a million to buff a derivative, autobiographical "novel" into an assembly line bestseller. Money talks.

Title: Re: How Opal Mehta got plagiarized...
Post by: Pickles on May 02, 2006, 09:31 AM
That's a pretty good article!
Title: Re: How Opal Mehta got plagiarized...
Post by: Melanie on May 02, 2006, 09:32 AM
seems as if there are two main camps on this.  the one that thinks she ought to be tarred and feathered for her unforgiveable crime, and the one that thinks there was a lot more going on than we outside observers know about (aka conspiracy theory).

those of you who've been following the thread know that i'm in the latter.  i was always taught to dig beneath the surface, and that things are never what they seem.  this story was appalling enough without the additional article by the crimson and the nyt.  enough already.  these new articles haven't shed any new light on anything.  they have only confirmed the stance that everyone has already chosen for themselves.

this whole mess is a testament to just how slimy this business can get if the main motivation is dollars and profits.  we all want to make a living doing what we love.  that's why we're in it.  but this is what happens when we pursue the money at the expense of everything else.

this girl got caught up in other people's agendas, including her parents.  in the entire scenario, she is the one with the least amount of power, if you will.  she is not a large corporation like alloy or little, brown.  she is not established in her field like her parents.  she is not the dreamworks media giant.  she is a 19-year-old girl trying to get her life going, under tremendous pressure to perform and please.

even if she didn't before, i have no doubt she now understands the gravity of her actions.  and no doubt that she'll *never, ever* copy anything again.  let the girl be, for heaven's sake.  why isn't anyone pounding down little brown's door and asking, "um, excuse me?  why the 500k, two-book-deal for a 17-y-o unknown?  wouldn't that money have been better used by giving 25 promising new, *seasoned* authors 20k advances?"  or pounding down alloy's door and asking, "how, exactly, do you get a huge percentage of a half-million dollars, and half the copyright, by working on only *four* chapters of *one* novel?  and only *tweaking* those chapters at that?"

no.  it's much easier to say it's the aberrant person with questionable character, rather than an entire industry or a climate of pushing for profits, by any means necessary.  it must be the 19-y-o plagiarizing wench.  tie her to the stake.  it can't be little brown and alloy.  how could they know?  how could they be held responsible for any of it?  these giant corporations are the *victims* of this 19-y-old's thievery!  this girl has betrayed and decieved *all* of us!

unbelievable, this whole thing.  it sure has blown the lid off of any disillusions i may have had about the business.
Title: Re: How Opal Mehta got plagiarized...
Post by: Melanie on May 02, 2006, 09:39 AM
thanks, lyda, for that link!  great article.
Title: Re: How Opal Mehta got plagiarized...
Post by: els on May 02, 2006, 10:06 AM
I think they are all equally culpable.  Everything seemed to mesh together to make this mess.  If KV hadn't put pen to paper, this wouldn't have been an issue.  She's as much to blame as anyone else.  When I was that age I knew that plagiarism was theft, and that theft was wrong.  I knew that when I was 12, when I first wanted to become a writer.  I wouldn't have dreamed of trying to lift someone else's work and pass it off as my own, even when my own writing wasn't that original.  I don't think age should be taken into account here. 

What concerns me is that we are focusing so much on "poor KV, and hope she can get her life back on track"- what kind of message are we sending?  Yes, I hope she can come through this and learn some valuable lessons, but she also made the choice to plagiarize.  If we are in a stressful situation and decide that doing something immoral will help get us through it, then where do we draw the line? Just because things are stressful, murdering others doesn't become ok, or embezzlement doesn't become ok, or cheating on our taxes, our spouses, etc, or robbing banks- these things aren't ok.  Stealing the hard work of another writer is WRONG.
 When we find ourselves in positions of potential success, immoral actions do not suddenly become ok or even understandable because things are stressful.  We can't shift blame to those around us for our actions, we have to each live out our morality with all the integrity we have.  This wasn't about her trying to figure out morality at a young age, as some have suggested, she simply bent with the wind and took the easiest course, which was to steal, proving how little integrity she has.  She wasn't even starving or homeless, which might make her actions more understandable- she was in an enviable position.

All of those who supported her in this venture, those who knew what she was doing, are equally to blame, though, L,B, and Alloy, etc.  But she still made the choice to steal.  She could have said no.  If it was all about the money offered, then it wasn't about the writing anyway, and plagiarism proves it isn't about the writing, but stealing a quick buck.

By trying to lessen her guilt by blaming others, we are doing her a great disservice.  It is important to face the consequences of our actions, so that we can grow as people.  Had she done the right thing, and written an original work, we'd have been happy for her- the consequences would be good.  She chose not to do that.  Merely having her reputation ruined is only the beginning.  The memory of that fades, people forget, and ooh, that wasn't too bad, I could be more sneaky next time and do the same thing again- maybe not plagiarism, but something else in life. She has to be held accountable for this, and so does anyone else who was involved, in equal measure, or we are sending a REALLY nasty message to the next generation of writers.  Anything goes.  Ethics are out the window.
Title: Re: How Opal Mehta got plagiarized...
Post by: Gail on May 02, 2006, 10:32 AM
I too have found myself coming back to this thread again and again. So are guys banning yourself from reading or just posting?  ;)

From the beginning I thought there were way too many samples given of KV's work mimicking MM's for it not to be intentional. I also wondered what else she had been reading that she may have "internalized". It looks like the New York Times is filling us in on that. I'm sorry, if she has a photographic memory wouldn't she remember where the information came from? Please!! Excuses, excuses.

What worries me the most is this not taking responsibility for her actions. It seems to me this is a big problem with our youth today. (OK, that's making me sound real old, and I know there are a lot of good responsible kids out there.)  But I do have two daughters about her age in college and I sure hope they wouldn't do this, but if they did, I would expect them to take responsibility for it. I saw it with other kids when they were in high school (and even with mine to a certain extent) and I know you've all seen in it with "stars"' in the media, be it sports or actors. It always someone else's fault! This changing her story over the last week is really just a way to avoid the inevitable. She plagiarised. Or in the words of my 14 year-old son when his dad asked him if he knew what plagiarism is, "when your writing and you steal someone else's crap."

Gail
Title: Re: How Opal Mehta got plagiarized...
Post by: lydap on May 02, 2006, 11:21 AM
That Slate article by the guy who tried to write a book for 17th St. is fabulous. This story goes on and on. It's like Watergate!
Title: Re: How Opal Mehta got plagiarized...
Post by: Paulahy on May 02, 2006, 11:36 AM
Pickles, I couldn't open the second link.  It said it was forbidden.  Ooh...intrigue.  :dr

-P
Title: Re: How Opal Mehta got plagiarized...
Post by: Pickles on May 02, 2006, 11:44 AM
Hmmm, it worked for me. Intrigue indeed. I just clicked on it from my post, so I don't know what happened. I found it by using the Blingo search engine. I had to go to about the second page.
Title: Re: How Opal Mehta got plagiarized...
Post by: dwrites on May 02, 2006, 11:52 AM
That Slate article by the guy who tried to write a book for 17th St. is fabulous.

Yes, that was a great piece. Let's invite John Barlow to join us here. I would LOVE to hear more from him.

Diana

(get me out of this thread... :faint: )
Title: Re: How Opal Mehta got plagiarized...
Post by: jadedmetaphor on May 02, 2006, 11:57 AM
Two more books?   http://www.thecrimson.com/article.aspx?ref=513204

Make that three: http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20060502/ap_en_ot/young_author

That's 5 in total.
Title: Re: How Opal Mehta got plagiarized...
Post by: Pickles on May 02, 2006, 12:10 PM
Okay, some of these newer examples coming up are farther fetched to me. They seem more coincidental than blatant.

Title: Re: How Opal Mehta got plagiarized...
Post by: Jaina on May 02, 2006, 12:58 PM
Let's start checking her high school essays and her letters home from camp.  I heard her third grade What-I-Did-On-My-Summer-Vacation essay had passages straight from The Bridges of Madison County.
Title: Re: How Opal Mehta got plagiarized...
Post by: lurban on May 02, 2006, 01:13 PM
Let's start checking her high school exams and her letters home from summer camp.  I heard her fourth grade What-I-Did-On-My-Summer-Vacation essay had passages straight from The Crucible.
Title: Re: How Opal Mehta got plagiarized...
Post by: Jaina on May 02, 2006, 01:35 PM
Okay, Lurban, how much ya got in your cookie jar?  I'm coming after you, sistah!

I just want to clarify, I honestly wasn't poking fun at KV with the above, but more trying to make a silly joke about the state of this whole affair.  I really do think that people's work should be protected, it was wrong of her (or whoever??) to lift the passages, and a very bad job, too.  It's a sad situation all around.  And I, like everyone else, cannot stop watching!  :spaz
Title: Re: How Opal Mehta got plagiarized...
Post by: Jaina on May 02, 2006, 01:37 PM
I think "The Crucible" is much funnier in an elementary school summer vacation essay.  Darn you, Linda Urban!  Darn you straight to Hello Kitty!
Title: Re: How Opal Mehta got plagiarized...
Post by: Laura Manivong on May 02, 2006, 02:09 PM
I have only read about the first 20 of some 300+ posts, so sorry if this is here already, but now there're a total of four books with similar passages, most recently The Princess Diaries. Opal Mehta's been pulled--permanently, and the two-book deal canceled.
Title: Re: How Opal Mehta got plagiarized...
Post by: Jen on May 02, 2006, 02:25 PM
LRM- I hadn't heard that the deal was canceled permanently... where did you read this?
Title: Re: How Opal Mehta got plagiarized...
Post by: Paulahy on May 02, 2006, 02:52 PM
By LB pulling her book deal it makes it seem like it's her fault and her fault only.  No matter how we feel about the author involved - I for one have no pity - BUT there is no way LB should be able to walk away tsk, tsk, tsking like they've been had.  That's just wrong on so many levels.

At the very least, KV played a dangerous game that she'd never win because when the ish hits the fan it's her standing alone against Alloy and LB.  That being she plagirized b/c she couldn't take the pressure to get the book done along with her Harvardly duties and thought 1) she'd get away with it and 2) if caught, her publisher would stand behind her.

Worst case scenario, she was a pawn in their game.  If it worked, she could check "author" off her to-do list, have a nice nest egg, a best seller and walk off into the sunset to pursue other careers.  But it didn't work and LB and Alloy are circling the wagons, leaving her standing outside to face the hungry media and outright pisstivity of her peers.

::sigh:::

So, running bets, who will get the first interview with KV and her parents:

Oprah

Dateline

Primetime

GMA

Today

Jerry Springer   :dr

-P
Title: Re: How Opal Mehta got plagiarized...
Post by: Liz on May 02, 2006, 02:54 PM
Since they've cancelled the deal -- does KV have to give the $ back?  Does Alloy have to give any $ back?

My mom gets the newspaper they mention in that link = The Record -- she's keeping me caught up in clippings as more of this scandal unfolds.
Title: Re: How Opal Mehta got plagiarized...
Post by: Liz on May 02, 2006, 02:56 PM
Ms P -- I think it will either be Primetime
 0r 48 Hours -- since the ish hit the fan so fast!
Title: Re: How Opal Mehta got plagiarized...
Post by: Emily on May 02, 2006, 03:03 PM
My grandpa used to have a little phrase that applies to this most appropriately in my opinion:

"Emily," he'd say, "A dog can't smell it's own S*#T"

So let this be a lesson to all of us, if we're going to write something, make sure it's really your own S*#T, that way if it gets thrown back in your face, it's not as bad as someone else's.

Uh-oh, I'm starting to sound like the moody, disturbed 17 year old in my WIP.  Sorry :x
Title: Re: How Opal Mehta got plagiarized...
Post by: Inspired on May 02, 2006, 03:10 PM
Huh.  You sound just like my husband.  (Moody 17 year-old.  I'll have to tell him that.  And disturbed - even better!)
Title: Re: How Opal Mehta got plagiarized...
Post by: Pickles on May 02, 2006, 03:15 PM
http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/articleshow/1513010.cms

I found the above article interesting
Title: Re: How Opal Mehta got plagiarized...
Post by: tgseale on May 02, 2006, 03:24 PM
PW Daily ALERT in my email.  I can't remember getting an ALERT before! :) 

http://www.publishersweekly.com/article/CA6330975.html
(Edited to add link to article)

Title: Re: How Opal Mehta got plagiarized...
Post by: Storyteller5 on May 02, 2006, 03:26 PM
Great link, Pickles!  :study
Title: Re: How Opal Mehta got plagiarized...
Post by: Paulahy on May 02, 2006, 03:58 PM
Great link, Pickles.  I second the emotion of the article's writer. 

Anytime LB is ready to talk PR campaign to educate young readers on the cons of plagirism, I'm ready to listen. 

-P
Title: Re: How Opal Mehta got plagiarized...
Post by: G.R. on May 02, 2006, 08:54 PM
Quote
why isn't anyone pounding down little brown's door and asking, "um, excuse me?  why the 500k, two-book-deal for a 17-y-o unknown?  wouldn't that money have been better used by giving 25 promising new, *seasoned* authors 20k advances?" or pounding down alloy's door and asking, "how, exactly, do you get a huge percentage of a half-million dollars, and half the copyright, by working on only *four* chapters of *one* novel?  and only *tweaking* those chapters at that?"
 

That's what pisses me off about this situation more than anything. :fury The publishers, packagers, etc. ought to be ashamed of themselves.

I certainly don't condone what KV did, and I think it's only fair if she loses the 2-book deal and the movie deal and has to give up the advance -- but I agree that she shouldn't have to take ALL the public scrutiny and the heat.
Title: Re: How Opal Mehta got plagiarized...
Post by: Alison on May 02, 2006, 09:28 PM
Washington Post weighs in:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/05/01/AR2006050101272.html

The fact that her original manuscript was darker makes me think maybe she wasn't instinctively writing chick lit like they were asking for, so she went out of her way to add things from all these chick lit books into it to make it sound more authentic as chick lit.

I don't get the whole thing. I mean, I don't get the idea of giving someone $500,000 because it looks like they might be able to write! I can write and editors have even told me so, yet no one is giving me a penny until I actually have a good book written and polished. I guess it's just the idea of marketability--with the story mirroring her own story as a girl on her way to Harvard, she had a hook they couldn't resist. But it really makes me wonder about Little, Brown! I hope at least in the future, reputable children's publishers will think twice about shelling out big bucks without a strong book already written!

But I am glad the publisher is pulling the book. I couldn't believe they were backing her up after the first accusations even before examining the facts. When you make an official statement that you're confident the allegations will be false when you haven't even checked into them yet, you're saying you don't care about the facts. I'm glad they changed their minds. I don't think the rules should be any different for young writers or writers under a lot of pressure than for anyone else. And it seems to me that if you're taking $500K for your writing, you have an especially strong responsibility to make sure your manuscript is worth it. (Hmm, maybe that was the idea...to use proven best selling text!)

I do agree the publishers & the packagers should be ashamed of themselves, though. They worked with her way too much to throw it all on her now... and you'd think with those other books being so popular, someone might have noticed it along the way! Has anyone read it? I would think that even if you didn't remember those particular passages from other books (and some are memorable, I think), you might notice places in which the voice and style suddenly changed. On the other hand, with so many cooks stirring the broth, it may have all been cobbled together by many different writers and editors with different voices anyway.
Title: Re: How Opal Mehta got plagiarized...
Post by: Vijaya on May 02, 2006, 11:29 PM
The fact that her original manuscript was darker makes me think maybe she wasn't instinctively writing chick lit like they were asking for, so she went out of her way to add things from all these chick lit books into it to make it sound more authentic as chick lit.


I was thinking that, too.  I'm sure people recommended some of these titles to her to study, NOT COPY.  But I don't believe that others were actively "writing" her book.  It boggles my mind that if she were getting so much hand-holding, that nobody noticed the similarities and asked her about it.  Still, she knew what she was doing.  Nobody made her copy anything.  It's a shame, shame, shame.  You reap what you sow ...

Vijaya
Title: Re: How Opal Mehta got plagiarized...
Post by: Paulahy on May 03, 2006, 04:15 AM
I don't get the whole thing. I mean, I don't get the idea of giving someone $500,000 because it looks like they might be able to write! I can write and editors have even told me so, yet no one is giving me a penny until I actually have a good book written and polished.

There was a great link, posted within another thread, about the economy of publishing and how a publisher determines how much they'll spend on a book and advance.  Forget where - I'm all linked out!!  But my point, whether they paid her $100K or $500K the economy of scale tips way in the favor of LB.  Because handing over that kind of cash means they thought they were going to make their money back and some!

Clearly they saw this as an investment in their next big series.  It's not enough that the hottest series package out now are theirs (Gossip Girls, Clique and A-List) they were setting the foundation for the next round.  Only it blew the frick up.

Funny thing is, in the article I read, the scenario had the publisher losing money and the author unable to sell again because of it.  So the author ends up writing under a psued, years later, and banging out a best seller.  It was all quite interesting.  And a little scary.

Scary because the author wasn't given a whole heck of a lot of promo support from the publisher...yet it's their fault the book didn't sell.  ::sigh::

-P
Title: Re: How Opal Mehta got plagiarized...
Post by: fuego80027 on May 03, 2006, 06:31 AM
I just read this, this morning I'm not sure if this has already has been posted but


Publisher cancels Harvard author's book deal
More charges of plagiarism emerging for Viswanathan and 'Opal Mehta
http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/12594078/from/ET/

it talks of how some of her other writng that she has done will be reviewed now.
Title: Re: How Opal Mehta got plagiarized...
Post by: lydap on May 03, 2006, 06:37 AM
This item from the Children's Book Insider I just got screams some big irony.

David Ford, who has been VP and Publisher of
Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, is moving
to London to open a book packaging company. He
will be succeeded by Megan Tingley, who has been
promoted from her current position as VP, Associate
Publisher and Editor-in-Chief.

Title: Re: How Opal Mehta got plagiarized...
Post by: Paulahy on May 03, 2006, 07:08 AM
::ring ring::

"Hello? Coincidence here, may I speak to David Ford?"

"Sorry, he's off to London. Something about a hot new venture in book publishing."

"Hmmph, really?  Hey, did irony just call here?"

 :dr

If you don't laugh at this business you'll drown in tears.

-P
Title: Re: How Opal Mehta got plagiarized...
Post by: HB on May 03, 2006, 09:26 AM
Wow, the story gets more and more bizarre every day. Several of us predicted correctly other YA books would be found with similarities. So Yay us! That’s not what I find bizarre.

In the comparisons to MM’s books, MM won, hands down, for the superior writing. But in these new examples, the KV versions are funnier.  Meg Cabot listed everything the princess was going through and her new expensive stuff. I’m a big fan of Meg Cabot but that one isn’t a quotable paragraph. KV talks about five pairs of shoes that could be traded in for a small sailboat. Now *that’s* funny. Same thing with the minks wanting to be turned into fur coats. A pretty good line. But saying the foxes that wanted to do it and comparing them to organ donors -- brilliant. So the question remains, why, Why WHY???? if she was capable of writing like that would she have resorted to plagiarism?

Unless there is now a ghostwriter at Alloy patting herself on the back and saying, “Hey, the organ donor line…that’s mine. So is the sailboat line. Someone at Verla Kay’s thinks I’m brilliant!”

I have no answers. Only questions.
Title: Re: How Opal Mehta got plagiarized...
Post by: NDM on May 03, 2006, 10:00 AM
I wonder if we'll ever know the real truth behind this mess.  KV being who she is, that is, a good, Indian-American Harvardian, may never spill the beans.  Especially if, as someone said earlier in this thread, there's any sort of "hush money" involved.  Or, maybe she'll wait until this has all died down, then write an expose.  Now that would be interesting.  I, for one, would love to know what the role of the other players has been: the parents, agent/s, packagers, editors, publisher, astrologers, and the pet cat.  That's definitely a movie I would be interested in seeing.

This whole story has been disheartening for me as a YA writer.  If publishers are clamoring over themselves to acquire high-return, "commercially viable" chick-lit novels (which I don't write, but enjoy reading), then where do other novels fall in that shuffle?  As a previous commenter stated, that advance could have gone to 25 (or more) new writers.

I'm not saying they shouldn't be acquiring these novels, but why at such a high premium?  And why from a packager?  Why not search for the next new, fresh voice that has something unique and original to contribute?  JK Rowling, for one, was "discovered", not packaged.  She wrote her own stuff, and look how "commercially viable" that turned out to be!  I understand that packagers make things "easier" for the publisher, but then what about that whole pretense of searching for fresh new voices (as LB's publisher claimed of Opal)?

Nothing to do for us poor writerly schmucks except keep working on our fresh new voices, and original plotlines.  And look for editors and publishers who really want what they say they want.
Title: Re: How Opal Mehta got plagiarized...
Post by: Jenny Moss on May 03, 2006, 11:42 AM
I'm not sure if this has already been posted (and this is a loooong thread to read in order to check), but, Miss P, I think I was wrong about Ann Brashares:  http://www.observer.com/20060508/20060508_Sheelah_Kolhatkar_pageone_newsstory3.asp

That's a different story than the one I heard.
Title: Re: How Opal Mehta got plagiarized...
Post by: krw3b on May 03, 2006, 12:01 PM
Re: Ette's link:

Wow. William Morris is in the mix too?

The plot thickens yet...
Title: Re: How Opal Mehta got plagiarized...
Post by: Paulahy on May 03, 2006, 12:37 PM
And why from a packager?  Why not search for the next new, fresh voice that has something unique and original to contribute? 

I think that has to be put into perspective.  Packaged books tend to be churned out at a much faster rate than the average book.  Part of the marketing of such books is that they'll come out once a month or every other or six times a year...whatever the frequency, it's usually more than one a year.

I don't know the actual stats.  So anyone who does, please chime in.

But can you imagine being a single author trying to produce a true series on your own?  All you'd be doing is writing, day after day, after day.

I also believe that LB probably went for a packager because it was going to start a new series to complement their other successful lines.  They probably thought Opal was going to be it.  And it's smart because Opal would have appealed to older teens and 20-somethings since she was in college.  Imagine where her adventures could have taken her - How Opal Got a Husband, Two Babies & Liposuction.   :dr

In the grand scheme of things, the packaged book is just a different animal.  The authors aren't out there pounding the pavement like the rest of us to sell the books because the Packager does the marketing.  The authors - for the most part - are in deep background.

In a way it seems that maybe they were trying to take packaging along the lines of making it seem like it was done traditionally.  Maybe that's why this has backfired so horribly.  If they had simply purchased KV's idea (like they did Francine Pascals many moons ago) and then put The Opal Metha series created by KV...then this wouldn't be a big deal.  Seems this book was a weird hybrid of packaged and traditional and it just didn't work.

-P
Title: Re: How Opal Mehta got plagiarized...
Post by: Jaina on May 03, 2006, 12:53 PM
I signed on my email this afternoon and was faced with this news story about a 4 year old Indian boy running 40 miles...

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/05/02/AR2006050201176.html

I have to say, I found it a little bit depressing.  But maybe the little boy really likes running!  I hate to be judgmental--I'm just trying to be honest about my reaction when seeing that picture.

It reminded me of an article I read while researching my current WIP--an article about the Indian prodigy phenomenon.  You can read it here: 

http://www.sawf.org/bin/tips.dll/gettip?user=Sawf&class=EZine&tipid=4273&pn=Contributors&arch=1

Naturally, I'm ill-qualified to comment (not being Indian or Indian-American or a member of KV's family!), but I wondered, when first reading about this KV disaster, if any of this prodigy stuff came into play.  At first, when I read about the book's concept, I thought it sounded amusing because of this prodigy/pressure slant--turning the tables on the success-obssessed parents would be fun.  Now I wonder if KV hasn't ended up making the biggest statement of all about her own situation and needing to be a literary prodigy.  I know, her parents are not writers themselves so there's no indication they wanted a big book deal for their daughter, but I can't help feeling she herself wanted to make a big splash and knew, perhaps, that being a doctor wasn't the most likely way.

Maybe even as I write this, she's looking over those med school applications?
Title: Re: How Opal Mehta got plagiarized...
Post by: Paulahy on May 03, 2006, 12:56 PM
Here's the part of the article I agreed with most:

But for all the tangled dealings in the Alloy book-packaging world, for a few, the more depressing concern is the content of some Alloy books. “Emotionally, there’s no progress,” said Francine Pascal, the creator of the Sweet Valley High series and an Alloy author. “It doesn’t touch on the classic values that Sweet Valley did—love, loyalty, friendship.”

Not saying Traveling Pants didn't have loyalty and friendship as basic themes.  It did.  But it still felt a little empty to me...a bit devoid of authentic emotion.  I had a very hard time connecting with the characters.  So did some other non-writers I discussed the book with.

Now I can only ask myself over and over did I feel this way because it was packaged?  Because the person writing it wasn't the one who invested her own emotion into their creation.

More and more my answer is yes, since I also felt the same way about The A-List and anytime I picked up a Gossip Girls.  Maybe it's just me - but it seems like any packaged book I've browsed or read, I can tell the author isn't 100% present among her characters.

Disclaimer - obviously this is all about personal taste.  So I am willing to concede that these books just weren't my personal taste.  I'm not saying they aren't good books.

-P
Title: Re: How Opal Mehta got plagiarized...
Post by: nhasnat on May 03, 2006, 01:49 PM
Well Ladies and Gents!

This may be a good time to submit to Little, Brown Books for Young Readers now that they have some percentage of 500K back!

(tongue in cheek....)

N :n
Title: Re: How Opal Mehta got plagiarized...
Post by: els on May 03, 2006, 05:34 PM
Check this out: http://www.themorningnews.org/archives/contest/steal_this_book_and_that_book_and_that_book.php
Title: Re: How Opal Mehta got plagiarized...
Post by: andracill on May 03, 2006, 08:34 PM
that's hysterical -- I bet they'll get some pretty good entries though  ;)
Title: Re: How Opal Mehta got plagiarized...
Post by: HB on May 04, 2006, 09:13 AM
Ette, fascinating article! I knew that the Travelling Pants was a packaged thing but the spin I'd always heard concentrated on the fact that Ann Brashares was a real author, who really wrote the book and got real credit for it, so it wasn't like a packaged book at all. The stuff I read always tried to distance the series from the fact that it was packaged -- playing Brashares up as a traditional author. Now we find out that some poor schuck got a $1000 bonus for coming up with the idea and Brashares was the lucky one who got to run with it.

Els, that sounds like a hilarious contest. I can't wait to see the results. I won't be entering myself. Too darn difficult to splice together stolen words into a single coherent story -- which is one of the reasons I still find this whole story bizarre. I for one, would love to see a tell-all book from KV where we get the nitty-gritty of what really happened with all the other players and what was going through her mind during the writing of Opal. Then again, at this point, could we believe anything she says?
Title: Re: How Opal Mehta got plagiarized...
Post by: LisaWrites on May 04, 2006, 09:27 AM
From HB: Then again, at this point, could we believe anything she says?

So true, HB!  I just got a visual of KV and James Frey together. LOL  A Million Little Pieces of Opal? Or -  How Opal Shattered Her Life into A Million Little Pieces.

I will not be surprised to see a Tell-All from KV and yes, it would be interesting. She's probably on the fast-track right now - getting it all down and making it up as she goes along.

Lisa A
Title: Re: How Opal Mehta got plagiarized...
Post by: dwrites on May 04, 2006, 09:32 AM
I will not be surprised to see a Tell-All from KV and yes, it would be interesting. She's probably on the fast-track right now - getting it all down and making it up as she goes along.

Or stealing it from James Frey.  :dr

Diana
Title: Re: How Opal Mehta got plagiarized...
Post by: lydap on May 04, 2006, 10:04 AM
I think her situation right now at Harvard--she's got to be a total pariah--would be agreat opening for a YA novel.
Title: Re: How Opal Mehta got plagiarized...
Post by: Athena529 on May 04, 2006, 11:51 AM
I was thinking the same thing- it's like a story plot. She could always use a pen name.

I really think she'll need to leave Harvard, at least for a while.
Title: Re: How Opal Mehta got plagiarized...
Post by: GreenBeans on May 04, 2006, 12:54 PM

I dunno...KV a pariah at Harvard? That would be really interesting to know. From what I've read, there is so much pressure to succeed that it's bred a "win at all costs" sort of mentality. As someone else in this thread said, morality and ethics go out the window. Most teens and college kids consider cheating to get a better grade no big deal and just part of life. Which is exactly the sort of thinking that got KV into this mess in the first place.
Look at all those Internet sites where people can buy term papers and such. Then other Internet sites have sprung up for the teachers to check and see where the term paper was plagiarized from.
But I'd be very interested to know what her peers think of this whole thing. Maybe she should start a lecture series, sort of community service, and go around to high schools and colleges and talk about how cheating and plagiarizing is not a good idea. 

GB
Title: Re: How Opal Mehta got plagiarized...
Post by: Athena529 on May 04, 2006, 01:10 PM
But those kids who are pressured to win at all costs are also pressured not to get caught. I'm sure, like most places, there is also an air of "you are who you associate with." How many people would want to associate with someone so completely saturated by negative publicity?

This week's Time magazine had an article on the scandal (with picture of the author, of course). Nothing information-wise that hasn't been posted here before.
Title: Re: How Opal Mehta got plagiarized...
Post by: Paulahy on May 04, 2006, 01:23 PM
There was a yahoo link days ago which was titled something like "Harvard Authors Downfall greeted with cheers and sadness."  Or something to that effect.  It gave the impression that she has some sympathizers on campus but definitely some giving her an icy recption.

-P
Title: Re: How Opal Mehta got plagiarized...
Post by: 217mom on May 05, 2006, 01:43 PM
It is unimaginable that a writer would deliberately sit down and copy, word for word, and paragraph from a published book, and then submit it for publication.
But when you're seventeen--- Maybe, just maybe---. No, even then, I don't think so.
So how do you vet your own writing to make sure you are not channeling?
Those who read so much must have some sort of a process to deal with this.
Haven't thought of this before, but this story has really got me thinking.
Title: Re: How Opal Mehta got plagiarized...
Post by: Jean Reidy on November 06, 2006, 01:05 PM
Would anyone even consider submitting something to Claudia Gabel in her new position at Knopf?
Title: Re: How Opal Mehta got plagiarized...
Post by: ShirleyH on November 06, 2006, 06:01 PM
Absolutely. She's a wonderful editor.

BTW, Claudia is at Delacorte.
Title: Re: How Opal Mehta got plagiarized...
Post by: Skarecrow on November 06, 2006, 07:02 PM
Hey HELP!!!!! I have read the first three pages of thread, and the last three!!!!  What is the verdict?  Can someone bring me up to date?  Please don't make me read all 13 pages...

Skarecrow :green:
Title: Re: How Opal Mehta got plagiarized...
Post by: andracill on November 06, 2006, 07:37 PM
Well, I could be remembering wrong, but i think it ended up like this:  KV lost her book deal and all her credibility; all her books were pulled from the bookstores; and if she ever wants to write again, she'll have use a pen name...did I cover it all?
Title: Re: How Opal Mehta got plagiarized...
Post by: Skarecrow on November 06, 2006, 08:09 PM
Hey, Andracill: Pretty good editing, I'd say, if you are correct...thanks for the update....Skarecrow
Title: Re: How Opal Mehta got plagiarized...
Post by: JustinDono on November 10, 2006, 11:16 AM

As a writer, i take pride in my ability, my imagination, and originality.  I also admire those three things in the books i love to read.  The idea that anybody would steal, or rip something from another author and tout it as their own absolutely sickens and infuriates me.  It's like somebody burning the flag or desecrating a church or something like that.  It gets the righteous anger going and switches me into "HULK SMASH" mode. 
When i first read about this months ago, my first thought was "I hope she gets expelled and beaten to within an inch of her life by mobs of authors." I don't know why this sort of thing makes me angry (I mean, it's not like she stole my stuff.  Hell, I'm not even a fan of the genre she stole from), but it's just the concept, that somebody could be so stupid and disrespectful of the effort somebody put into their own work, and just take it.  i think that's what gets me.  Knowing what other writers must go through, the effort of creation, the notion of some dumb broad skipping up and just picking out her favorite passages and spending a whole 5 minutes to "disguise" them makes me see red.
I don't think anybody in their right mind would ever pick up Kaavya viswanathan, even if she did use a pen name. 
Title: Re: How Opal Mehta got plagiarized...
Post by: Paulahy on November 15, 2006, 04:56 AM
I don't think anybody in their right mind would ever pick up Kaavya viswanathan, even if she did use a pen name. 

But you know what?  I bet someone will.  If she has even a quarter of the writing ability that all those people who pushed this situation into being saw, then she's a better writer than a lot of the slush pile of many publishers.  And at the end of the day, all they see is green.

Me, I think if she has the talent and voice she should be welcomed back into the community.  Having everything stripped was punishment enough.  As long as she'll be starting from scratch like everyone else, I don't mind her having another chance to join the ranks of the published. But if she had been allowed to keep the unGodly huge advance etc...I'd be a bit more bitter.

Seems catty...but this job is too hard to watch someone start so far at the top without having proven anything.


-P
Title: Re: How Opal Mehta got plagiarized...
Post by: JustinDono on November 18, 2006, 12:19 PM
But you know what?  I bet someone will.  If she has even a quarter of the writing ability that all those people who pushed this situation into being saw, then she's a better writer than a lot of the slush pile of many publishers.  And at the end of the day, all they see is green.

Me, I think if she has the talent and voice she should be welcomed back into the community.  Having everything stripped was punishment enough.  As long as she'll be starting from scratch like everyone else, I don't mind her having another chance to join the ranks of the published. But if she had been allowed to keep the unGodly huge advance etc...I'd be a bit more bitter.


I would argue that she is not a better writer than most people.  I'd rather read something original and bad than something stolen and good.  The fact that she stole plot, character types, and entire passages from several other authors indicates she can't write for [poo].  Even if she could, since all publishing houses see is green, she is a huge liability.  she's a known thief, a massive negative media magnet.  If anybody found out about her pen name (and people usually do), sales would plummet, people would look suspiciously at each new book and wonder how much she stole in order to write this one.

as for "welcoming her back" or anything like that, plagiarism on the level she committed is a nigh-unforgivable sin to me.  She deserves every bad thing that's happened to her since and then some.  Not a very nice attitude to have, i know (in fact, it's bloddy awful and mean), but it just burns me up.  I hope little, Bown & Co. took back that advance and slapped her across the face with her old contract and then made her eat it.

Thieving....thief, i suppose. <---edit'd!
Title: Re: How Opal Mehta got plagiarized...
Post by: Anne Marie on November 18, 2006, 12:28 PM
Whoa, maestro--no name-calling, even if she's not a member.

AM   :police:
Board Administrator
Title: Re: How Opal Mehta got plagiarized...
Post by: Tracy Abell / Vinca on November 18, 2006, 12:29 PM
Wow, JustinDono.  First she was a "dumb broad" and today she's a "wench."  Both terms are unflattering but for reasons that have nothing to do with your (well-founded) objections to the young woman's plagiarism.  Perhaps your outrage and passion on this subject would carry more weight if they weren't wrapped in such terminology.  Just a thought.

Ah, Anne Marie's post got there first.  Thanks.
Title: Re: How Opal Mehta got plagiarized...
Post by: JustinDono on November 18, 2006, 12:50 PM
Whoa, maestro--no name-calling, even if she's not a member.

Fair enough. I'll fix that.

Wow, JustinDono.  First she was a "dumb broad" and today she's a "wench."  Both terms are unflattering but for reasons that have nothing to do with your (well-founded) objections to the young woman's plagiarism.  Perhaps your outrage and passion on this subject would carry more weight if they weren't wrapped in such terminology.  Just a thought.



Perhaps.  I'm normally pretty level-headed in all things (thanks to years spent working with kids of all ages, from crying babies to mouthy teenagers, I've developed a masively long fuse), but since writing is my life, passion, and love, seeing somebody desecrate it in this manner is one of a very small list of things that ticks me off.  As such, i tend to forget my manners and regard any person with the deepest disrespect.