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How Opal Mehta got plagiarized...

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lydap

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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.

#301 - May 03, 2006, 06:37 AM

Paulahy

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::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
#302 - May 03, 2006, 07:08 AM

HB

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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.
#303 - May 03, 2006, 09:26 AM

NDM

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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.
#304 - May 03, 2006, 10:00 AM

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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.
#305 - May 03, 2006, 11:42 AM
Jennifer Mckissack:
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Re: Ette's link:

Wow. William Morris is in the mix too?

The plot thickens yet...
#306 - May 03, 2006, 12:01 PM
Kristin Walker
A MATCH MADE IN HIGH SCHOOL  (Razorbill, Feb. 2010)
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Paulahy

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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
#307 - May 03, 2006, 12:37 PM

Jaina

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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?
#308 - May 03, 2006, 12:53 PM

Paulahy

Guest
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
#309 - May 03, 2006, 12:56 PM

nhasnat

Guest
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
#310 - May 03, 2006, 01:49 PM


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that's hysterical -- I bet they'll get some pretty good entries though  ;)
#312 - May 03, 2006, 08:34 PM
Robin
Unspun: A Collection of Tattered Fairy Tales: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07BSR6CPJ/
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HB

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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?
#313 - May 04, 2006, 09:13 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
#314 - May 04, 2006, 09:27 AM
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dwrites

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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
#315 - May 04, 2006, 09:32 AM

lydap

Guest
I think her situation right now at Harvard--she's got to be a total pariah--would be agreat opening for a YA novel.
#316 - May 04, 2006, 10:04 AM

Athena529

Guest
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.
#317 - May 04, 2006, 11:51 AM

GreenBeans

Guest

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
#318 - May 04, 2006, 12:54 PM

Athena529

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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.
#319 - May 04, 2006, 01:10 PM

Paulahy

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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
#320 - May 04, 2006, 01:23 PM

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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.
#321 - May 05, 2006, 01:43 PM
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Would anyone even consider submitting something to Claudia Gabel in her new position at Knopf?
#322 - November 06, 2006, 01:05 PM
Jean Reidy
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Absolutely. She's a wonderful editor.

BTW, Claudia is at Delacorte.
#323 - November 06, 2006, 06:01 PM
PAINLESS (Albert Whitman 2015)
BLOOD BROTHERS (Delacorte 2007)

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:
#324 - November 06, 2006, 07:02 PM
"Make no mistake about it...a true piece of writing is a dangerous thing. It can change your life."  Tobias Wolfe.

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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?
#325 - November 06, 2006, 07:37 PM
Robin
Unspun: A Collection of Tattered Fairy Tales: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07BSR6CPJ/
Website: www.robinprehn3r.com

Hey, Andracill: Pretty good editing, I'd say, if you are correct...thanks for the update....Skarecrow
#326 - November 06, 2006, 08:09 PM
"Make no mistake about it...a true piece of writing is a dangerous thing. It can change your life."  Tobias Wolfe.

JustinDono

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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. 
#327 - November 10, 2006, 11:16 AM
« Last Edit: November 10, 2006, 11:21 AM by JustinDono »

Paulahy

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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
#328 - November 15, 2006, 04:56 AM

JustinDono

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New!
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!
#329 - November 18, 2006, 12:19 PM
« Last Edit: November 18, 2006, 12:51 PM by JustinDono »

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Whoa, maestro--no name-calling, even if she's not a member.

AM   :police:
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#330 - November 18, 2006, 12:28 PM
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