SCBWI's Blueboard - A Message & Chat Board

How Opal Mehta got plagiarized...

Discussion started on

Melanie

Guest
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.
#271 - May 02, 2006, 09:32 AM

Melanie

Guest
thanks, lyda, for that link!  great article.
#272 - May 02, 2006, 09:39 AM

els

Guest
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.
#273 - May 02, 2006, 10:06 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
#274 - May 02, 2006, 10:32 AM

lydap

Guest
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!
#275 - May 02, 2006, 11:21 AM

Paulahy

Guest
Pickles, I couldn't open the second link.  It said it was forbidden.  Ooh...intrigue.  :dr

-P
#276 - May 02, 2006, 11:36 AM

Pickles

Guest
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.
#277 - May 02, 2006, 11:44 AM

dwrites

Guest
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: )
#278 - May 02, 2006, 11:52 AM

jadedmetaphor

Guest
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.
#279 - May 02, 2006, 11:57 AM

Pickles

Guest
Okay, some of these newer examples coming up are farther fetched to me. They seem more coincidental than blatant.

#280 - May 02, 2006, 12:10 PM

Jaina

Guest
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.
#281 - May 02, 2006, 12:58 PM

lurban

Guest
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.
#282 - May 02, 2006, 01:13 PM

Jaina

Guest
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
#283 - May 02, 2006, 01:35 PM

Jaina

Guest
I think "The Crucible" is much funnier in an elementary school summer vacation essay.  Darn you, Linda Urban!  Darn you straight to Hello Kitty!
#284 - May 02, 2006, 01:37 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.
#285 - May 02, 2006, 02:09 PM
ESCAPING THE TIGER, Bank Street's "Best Books of the Year"
http://lauramanivong.wordpress.com

Uber Sparkly Poster
Poster Plus
LRM- I hadn't heard that the deal was canceled permanently... where did you read this?
#286 - May 02, 2006, 02:25 PM

Paulahy

Guest
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
#287 - May 02, 2006, 02:52 PM

Member
Poster Plus
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.
#288 - May 02, 2006, 02:54 PM

Member
Poster Plus
Ms P -- I think it will either be Primetime
 0r 48 Hours -- since the ish hit the fan so fast!
#289 - May 02, 2006, 02:56 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
#290 - May 02, 2006, 03:03 PM

Huh.  You sound just like my husband.  (Moody 17 year-old.  I'll have to tell him that.  And disturbed - even better!)
#291 - May 02, 2006, 03:10 PM

Pickles

Guest
#292 - May 02, 2006, 03:15 PM

tgseale

Guest
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)

#293 - May 02, 2006, 03:24 PM
« Last Edit: May 02, 2006, 06:13 PM by thatgirlygirl »

Storyteller5

Guest
Great link, Pickles!  :study
#294 - May 02, 2006, 03:26 PM

Paulahy

Guest
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
#295 - May 02, 2006, 03:58 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.
#296 - May 02, 2006, 08:54 PM
"This is your life and you be what you want to be.
Just don't hurt nobody, 'less of course they ask you."

XTC, "Garden of Earthly Delights" (1989)

Alison

Guest
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.
#297 - May 02, 2006, 09:28 PM

Global Moderator
Poster Plus
  • ***
  • SCBWI Member
  • SCBWI PAL
  • SCBWI Region carolinas
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
#298 - May 02, 2006, 11:29 PM
BOUND (Bodach Books, 2018)
TEN EASTER EGGS (Scholastic, 2015)
www.vijayabodach.blogspot.com
Author of over 60 books and 60 magazine pieces

Paulahy

Guest
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
#299 - May 03, 2006, 04:15 AM

fuego80027

Guest
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.
#300 - May 03, 2006, 06:31 AM

Members:

0 Members and 3 Guests are viewing this topic.