How Teen Authors can get burned

Have you been following the news of the very painful Kaavya Viswanathan situation? Read the article at CNN or NY Times or many others places for all the details, but I’ll summarize.

Briefly, Kaavya was given an alleged half-million dollar advance (which is an astounding sum of money – I have never come close to an advance like that) and a contract to write a novel for book packager Alloy, for a book that would be published by Little Brown. So far, so good. Kaavya wrote the book, How Opal Mehta Got Kissed, Got Wild and Got a Life, the summer before she started at Harvard. It was published.

And then it was pointed out by the newspaper at Harvard, that at least 40 passages in the book (long passages) appear to be plagarized from the works of Megan McCafferty (Sloppy Firsts, Second Helping). Edited to add – read the Harvard Crimson article and decide for yourself.

Kaavya admitted that she copied the passages and the book is being pulled from shelves today. From a New York Times article, we get to hear from Megan’s publisher: “Steve Ross, Crown’s publisher, said that, “based on the scope and character of the similarities, it is inconceivable that this was a display of youthful innocence or an unconscious or unintentional act.”… “Mr. Ross called it “nothing less than an act of literary identity theft.””

This all makes me so sad, I don’t know where to start.

First – Megan McCafferty. She had her words stolen. If I were her, I would be enraged, outraged, tooth-spitting furious. Instead, she has been very, very gracious. Here is her statement, as printed in today’s New York Times:

“”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.”

Wow. Megan McCafferty wins both the Classy Dame Award and the Grace Under Pressure Award of the Decade.

Second – Kaavya. I DO NOT condone what she did. Not at all. The kid got into Harvard – she knows what plagarism is. So I can’t cut her a lot of slack. But I cut her a little, because she was in over her head. An obscene amount of money changed hands and she did not know what to do.

Third – the American publishing industry. Here is the moral of the story, as I see it: If the age of an author becomes a central piece of the marketing campaign, you have a problem. Because the truth is that only one or two kids/generation have what it takes to write an entire novel that is of a quality to be published. It is very, very hard to write a novel well. That’s why so few people do it.

I love teen authors. I encourage them, support them, cheer them on from the sidelines. But the truth is that 99.99% of them will have to let their craft and souls mature about another decade before they get to the point where they can produce the kind of work that will be good enough to be published. This is not a bad thing. This is a truth of writing.

And think about it – if you can have it all when you are 17, then what do you have to look forward to?

What do you guys think about this?

49 Replies to “How Teen Authors can get burned”

  1. I don’t believe her and don’t feel sorry for her.. I guess it would be embarrassing to admit what she did, but I’d rather have her be honest for once than keep dragging out the lies. She says that she’s read the books so much that they’ve been imprinted in her mind or something– I’ve read the books so, so many times, and I would never be able to quote exact sentences “accidently.”

  2. It amuses me that it was her own school’s newspaper that ratted her out, but someone else would’ve picked up on it eventually. Nearly every girl I know has read Megan McCafferty’s books, and Opal Mehta was getting a lot of good publicity but the bad publicity started.

    I cut her a little slack, too. Harvard is Harvard, but seventeen is still pretty young to be dealing with half a million dollars. I just turned seventeen, and if someone was offering me that much money to write a book, I can’t say I wouldn’t pull out the old copy of, I don’t know, Crime & Punishment, blow off the dust, and start copying. But props to Megan McCafferty for being to cool!

  3. Oh my gosh, I can’t believe you have a LJ. This comment has very little to do with this particular post. I’m just so excited to see you on LJ. I read a great deal of YA fiction. I’ve read FEVER 1793(?) by you, and really loved it a lot. Have to say honestly, have not read of your others yet, but SPEAK is on a lot of reading lists here, so I’ll try to read it soon. Anyway just wanted to say HI!

    Also, just wondering regarding your feelings of Chris Paolini and the many similarites in his characters names with Tolkien names. I loved the books ERAGON and ELDEST and feel even though there are some similarites the story is refreshingly different enough to not be a problem. And, lastly do you read YA,childrens fantasy.

  4. well….

    Being around the same age as Kaavya I understand how much pressure is being forced on her to perform well, that and then being offered 500 grand? I’m sure that there was an adult somewhere behind the curtain encouraging her to go for this money. However, by this age I understand plagarism and how cowardly it is-I would never even consider it which makes me think that Kaavya had it somehow justified in her head that this was the ok thing to do, it was somehow right. Humans, especially us young ones whose brain isn’t even fully developed, no matter how mentally capable we were at one point have a strange way of working things out in our heads at points of desperation.

    I wish the best to Kaavya and give props to Megan for her class. And of course she won’t make it into a big deal, she is however the REAL big deal-these are HER words that were plagarized, and were published once again. Come on, isn’t that a sick kind of compliment?

  5. I’ve been wrestling, myself, with whether I think there is any possibility that her copying really was unconscious. Those passages sure look awfully similar. Then again, in middle school, there were books that I read over and over in a loop — when I got to the last page I’d just start right back at the first. I still know long passages of them by heart. I wouldn’t want to have to swear that none of my high school writing was colored by their rhythms and witticisms. But could I have reproduced whole passages nearly verbatim and not realized what I was doing? Hmm.

  6. When I saw the side-by-sides of some of the passages, I said to my wife, I’d have given her a ZERO and made her re-write it. But that would have been after I’d gone through my week-long plagiarism mini-course with my class. I’ve noticed that most high school students don’t understand plagiarism. While most of them know they can’t just copy verbatum from a text, they do not think that “changing” the text is plagiarism. On the contrary, it’s good research. In four years of teaching, I caught more than a dozen plagiarizing on papers, and those are just the ones I caught. It’s rampant, but they don’t know that taking someone’s words, adjusting them around, thesaurusizing, etc. is wrong. They just don’t know. And I can’t blame them. I didn’t know either until someone taught me the ins-and-outs of plagiarism in one of my teaching credential courses. So before then? Yup, guilty as charged.

    1. It’s a fine line, to be certain. But the simpler the phrase is, and the simpler or older an idea is, the less any previous writer can stake a claim to it.

  7. “Kaavya admitted that she copied the passages”

    Where did you hear that? In the article you linked to, it said that she “unintentionally mimicked them”, which isn’t quite the same thing.

    I feel about this like you do, though, just sad.

    1. The most recent NY Times article says she admitted her copying. I didn’t link to it because you have to be a registered viewer to read the article, which is a pain.

      1. Here’s a link to her speaking with Katie Couric on the Today Show: http://video.msn.com/v/us/msnbc.htm?g=5b9ba5da-0a48-4ee6-902b-7df372ae7fe0&f=00&fg=copy She seems sad, but I can’t feel bad when she seems to keep lying! Even Katie looks like she doesn’t believe what this girl says. She hopes we can all forgive and forget, but her excuses don’t really match up and answer how it happened. She admits that they are similar and that it must be her subconscious– but she doesn’t admit actually taking the sentences and changing words to make them look different.

        -H

      2. Btw, the Times was being very confusing in its phrasing. I think what they’re trying to say is that she confessed to unintentionally copying the material, but they definitely didn’t say so very clearly. At the beginning they say that she “confessed to copying”, but then several paragraphs down they say:

        “Nevertheless, Ms. Viswanathan maintained throughout the week that her copying of the passages was ‘unintentional and unconscious.'”

        Considering that they call it “copying” in both places, I don’t think they assume that “copying” necessarily means intentional plagiarism.

  8. Ultimately bad for all

    Despite the hundreds of books that come out year after year…which must make it seem as though new authors are a dime a dozen, news such as this and the recent Frye/Oprah episode inevitably make publishers all the more cautious about publishing new (more honest) authors and in the end….it makes it tougher on all the rest of us writers.

    Not to mention a great loss to readers and fans of good literature as well

    1. Re: Ultimately bad for all

      Did Frye plagarize though? because I heard he just fictionalized alot of his memoir which is false advertising but doesn’t change the fact that I’ve heard that the book is pretty good and that he’s a good writer.

      1. Re: Ultimately bad for all

        Didn’t he claim that he was in the car with some girl who was killed by a train or something? He claimed that he was part of her death and that her parents accused him of stuff relating, but when smokinggun.com spoke to the parents, they didn’t know who he was and why he was trying to use their daughter’s death for his own fake glory. Or something like that. I can’t remember exactly.

        -H

  9. While I agree that Kaavya’s plagarism is wrong, I still feel somewhat bad for her on a small scale. It seems like whatever she does now will be suspect, which can be very difficult at a place like Harvard.

    Perhaps the real upside is that a case like this in which many teenagers might have read the book and will hear about this case is that the readers will understand that writing has consequences. Plagarism has consequences. As a first year composition at a state university, I see so many students who think getting upset over plagarism is silly. These are 18 and 19 year old students who don’t understand why lifting someone else’s work and/or not citing that work is dishonest or wrong. I hope the publicity over a writer their own age will help them grasp the seriousness of the situation.

    1. Unfortunately, a lot of the kids I’ve talked to still don’t see what all the fuss is about.

      Hoping to spark discussion with my English tutees, I printed out copies of some Kaavua-gate articles. I was shocked to see several of my students taking a scary, reverse-ageist stance. They suggested that various old people (M.M., her publishers, those making a big deal) are simply jealous of a talented young person being more famous than they are.

      It was also hard to persuade them that A) it was still plagerism if you changed a bunch of words to synonyms and varied the verb tense (sigh, I think I finally got through on that one) and B) it was actually illegal to plagerize… as opposed to merely frowned upon by stuffy old English teachers. One thirteen year old even challenged me with, “Well, if that Sloppy Firsts book was so great, how come I’ve never heard of it and that author made less money?” A question I could not begin to answer without sounding like a bitter Old person.

      For my part, I do have sympathy for a teenager who got in over her head, but I believe she should return the money. As much of her advance as possible. Not just to “punish” herself or sway public opinion, but so she can hold up head again and truly start fresh.

      1. My first year college students were more receptive to the idea that plagrism is wrong once they saw the applicability of it. And I tried to apply it to them as well, such as “What if someone copied a poem you wrote on your LJ and turned it in as an assignment.” Their response: “But that’s cheating!” Exactly.

        1. Quite true… once the shoe is on the other foot, it’s easier to see why stealing words is wrong. And after we went through our little plagiarism mini-unit they *were* more receptive. However, what shocked me was the initial gut reaction of “old vs. young.” And the assumption that being more famous and rich meant you must be objectively better and more deserving. Then again, the kids I tutor are fairly well off so their views on wealth may not be representative of the general population.

  10. Has she admitted that she intentionally lifted the material? I’m more inclined to believe that it was unintentional than most because I’ve actually had that happen to me before – if I’ve reread a book compulsively enough, I have been known to reproduce short passages without even realizing that I’m doing it. Typically I have a little niggling sense of “wait, something’s wrong here”, and I rack my brains trying to figure out where it’s from. But in Kaavya’s situation, under so much pressure, I might not have had time to heed that. I guess I just don’t understand why she would plagiarize Megan McCafferty, of all writers. She’s quite popular, and she writes in the same genre and has the same audience that Viswanathan was aiming at. Intentionally plagiarizing in a situation like that, where it’s almost certain you’d get caught eventually, just seems too stupid to believe, you know?

    I agree with a lot of what you’re saying about teen book deals putting pressure on teens to produce beyond what they are mature enough to be capable of, though. And you’re absolutely right on when you say that “If the age of an author becomes a central piece of the marketing campaign, you have a problem.” There’s been so much debate and hoopla over authors’ identities and life stories recently, between Viswanathan and the centrality of the author versus the book in her publicity, J.T. Leroy, and James Frey. In the end, for me, it’s about the book, not the author. I found the side-by-side passages from Viswanathan and McCafferty to be amusing because in every instance some things had been changed, and in every instance they had been changed in Viswanathan’s version for the worse. I won’t go so far as to say the entire book was poorly written based on that, but it’s worth thinking about, and worth taking a look at why we care so much about authors when it’s their books that we’re reading.

  11. I am Obsessed w/ the whole thing actually. I am working on a YA novel myself, and i read lots of novels by YA authors. BUT< I have my own voice.

    The whole thing w/ the Harvard student really sickens me, and i would love to literally see the book stores take her books down off the shelves, which was reported on the news last night. She was on the today show the other day, and she seems so young and naive. I think she knew what she was doing despite what she says about not doing it intentionally.

    i think she needs to quit and just keep up with her studies at Harvard.

    Eileen

  12. I plagiarized once on a paper on Ameilia Earhart in 4th grade. I didn’t realize what I did, or what plagiarism was, but I had to rewrite my entire paper again and felt so ashamed by it that I never once considered doing that since. I’m now 29 and would never, ever consider using someone else’s words as my own.

    When I was in college, my favorite writing professor often had us start a writing exercise in class by giving us a line from a book, poem, or song lyric. We would then copy that line and continue free-flow writing and then discuss the stories we discovered. Mind you, not once was the issue of plagiarism brought up. In retrospect, I wish it had.

    Because of the Fourth Grade Incident, however, I never used the initial “root” line in any of my final stories.

    I hope this kid can recover. It will be difficult, though, and every word she writes from here on out is bound to be highly scrutinized.

    1. Oh…I also wanted to mention I’m looking forward to meeting you at the author’s dinner tonight, and hope I can attend one of the breakout sessions tomorrow. I’m “bodyguarding” Brent Hartinger, though, so I don’t expect to be free very often. 🙂

    2. We had to do essays on an assigned animal in 2nd grade and I had gotten these binders of animal info (I don’t remember what they’re called, but they were really popular back then) and my teacher got me so afraid that getting ANY information from the book was going to be considered plagerizing that I cried to my mom that night.

      Its kind of amusing now.

  13. shame on LB

    Does anyone know how this deal came about in the first place? How did a 17-year-old unpublished writer get a $500,000 deal? And was the manuscript written when the deal was made?

    I think Little Brown deserves to be raked over the coals even more than the young author. I don’t mean just financially. Let’s talk about the atrocities in children’s publishing. As Laurie says, there’s something wrong when the strongest selling point of a book is the author’s age. Similarly, there’s something wrong with publishing re-hashed fairy tales slapped together by non-writers for TV entertainment. Booooooo Simon & Schuster! (Hey, that origianlly came out Simon $ Schuster–I kinda like that. :-)) And don’t get me started on lame picture book sequels, and poorly conceived and written celebrity books.

    What’s wrong with just plain good books?

  14. one of my other authors is indian, and the press over there is going crazy. KV is being excoriated.

    in re teen authors: i am hard pressed to think of any authors first published in their teens who have gone on to long-lasting careers (s.e. hinton notwithstanding, but she doesn’t publish much).

  15. opal, huh?

    And she also stole the name Opal from Kate DiCamillo! …alright, maybe not.

    But why DID they give her such a huge advance??? I just don’t get it.

  16. This one hits pretty close to home for me.

    I wrote my first book when I was nineteen. Actually, that’s not even technically true- I wrote my first book (one of many “practice books” that I wrote, but didn’t publish) when I was 17/18, and then wrote several more, growing with each one. Then, a year and a half later, the summer I was nineteen, I wrote GOLDEN (coming out from Delacorte this summer). My next three books (due out in 2007-2008) were written when I was twenty, twenty-one, and twenty-two respectively. I’m just old enough now (22) that my age isn’t a major selling point, but I’m still young enough that I sort of fall into the “young author” category, if only at the very edges.

    I think giving a book contract to a teen for a book she hasn’t written yet is a mistake. Like you said, not everyone can handle writing a good, publishable book at that age, but at the same time, not every adult can handle it either, and I think that, in general, giving someone a huge deal on their first book before they’ve written at least a good chunk of it is probably a mistake. A really important part of the process is growing and learning as you write (and write and write and read and write), and becoming really confident in your ability as an author. If someone gives you a contract before you’ve ever written a full-length book, there’s a good chance that you’re going to miss out on that, no matter your age.

    I think, for me, experience is more important than age per se. Do you write every day? Do you read all the time? Are you committed to using every resource you can find to becoming a better writer? Are you willing to revise? Do you have what it takes to realize that rejection is an opportunity for growth? Are you willing to do this for years- to accept that your ‘baby’ might not be ready, to tear it down and build it up, to continue writing and improving each draft and from project to project? Because if you are, and if you have talent, and if you stick at this for years, I’m not sure I think it matters if you start when you’re fourteen or when you’re fifty.

    I agree that the S.E. Hintons of the world are rare- the kind of teens who can just sit down and write what turns out to be a truly amazing book when they’re fourteen, fifteen, sixteen years old, but it’s rare for adults to be able to have that kind of success the first time they take a stab at it, too. I feel like statistics that say that only one or two kids per generation are really capable of writing a publishable book are in danger of giving the impression that you have to be some kind of Buffy-esque Chosen One to write a publishable novel as a teen (“into each generation, a writer is born…”), when I think what it really comes down to is how much you’re willing to work, how passionate you are about growing as a writer, and how willing you are to dedicate yourself to the process long-term. If you can do that as a teen, more power to you.

  17. i think one of the best parts of writing when you’re a teenager is that you know that about 99% of whatever you write is going to be crummy, incomplete, and generally weak. Because you know this…a whole world of possibilities opens up. I think it’s easier to take risks when you write at a younger age because you have such different expectations for yourself. If you take a risk and it works….rock on! But failure also isn’t so scary, because you knew that it was a pretty good possibility to begin with.

    I guess that’s why i have such a problem with the story…because to have that type of presure on you, in addition to all the other stressful aspects of being in high school, takes all the fun out of writing at a young age. It also makes taking risks that much harder to do. And as far as my reading and literary knowledge goes, the risks are the things that make novels worth reading. (and besides, if you don’t write a lot of crummy stuff to begin with, how will you ever learn when you get something good? Your best won’t be based on you…it’ll end up being based on what some critic thinks. And that sounds like a recipe for a mental breakdown).

  18. I really don’t know WHAT to think about it. I think plagiarism is completely disgusting, but I also realize that as young as K. is, she has to be stressed right now. I’m 17, and I know I would be in over my head. HOWEVER, I also wouldn’t copy many passages from a well-known author’s book. Plagiarism is not my thing.

  19. A $500,000 advance is absurd for a first-time 17 year old author. If publishers are going to pay that kind of money, can they please pay it to really good authors?

    I think the majority of novels by teen authors that get published suck and that most of them are derivative. I think Eragon is complete crap; nothing more than thinly veiled fantasy fanfic. If you are a hardcore fantasy fan and you go through that book, you can see pretty much where he got every plot point. Many, many kids love it, but they’re all too young to have read the stuff he was “inspired” by. The Prophecy of the Stones is even worse; I could barely make it through a third of that.

    I have a “book” I “wrote” when I was 12 which was basically a complete Anne McCaffrey ripoff; I wonder if I could have gotten it published?

  20. today was poem in your pocket day

    today was poem in your pocket day state wide and we had to present our poem be it from a famous poet our ourselves and so i did one of my own poems and my teacher said i should submit one of my poems to her for next year to be published in the lighthouse which is like a student publication publisher but after hearing all these things about how teens shouldn’t published i’m confused about whether or not i should do it i mean it’s only one poem so that’s ok right? is that safe to publish?

  21. When I originally read McCafferty’s statement, I went back and reread the whole article to make sure I had read things correctly. I couldn’t believe how gracious her statement was; I couldn’t believe that was said by the author whose books were plagiarized. That amazed me — she gets major props for that. I want to become that forgiving!

    I think it’s a shame that Viswanathan couldn’t have found a more original way to say what she wanted to say. I think her choice was just plain stupid, and also that it’s a shame she did it. The book seemed so promising — I was actually considering reading it (before all of this plagiarism stuff happened). I’m contemplating buying it used on Amazon.com before prices go up….

  22. Here’s my question, aside from the primary writer issue:
    This ms was read by a packager, an agent, I’m assuming an entire acquisitians committee, an editor – probably several times, with the amount of money involved probably the publisher, perhaps an associate editor, a copy editor, and a proofreader. All of these people work in the field of children’s publishing, and some of them are specialists in the field. Not one of them noticed?

  23. In high school I took creative writing classes, and my friends and I shared our work with each other often. There is something very giddy about being that young and writing.

    If she was 17 when she signed the deal, then I can’t cut her any slack… but she must have been swept away by it all. How many people I know fell in love with some author or another and imitated their writing style and genre in an attempt to absorb it… she must not have had a level-headed, serious critic at all, who was more interested in her becoming a better writer than a published teenager. Kaavya must have forgiven herself very generously as a writer, because most writers I know are so highly critical of their own work. When you’re sharing with your friends, and they gush and over-praise your work, it’s easy for your head to get big. And her parents MUST have been on this too… being Indian myself I can only imagine the scenarios. The pressure to get into a good school, to be successful… and half a million is not a joke. Didn’t she get signed up with some company that practically helped her write the book?

    http://www.nysun.com/article/12648

    “I still cannot believe this. I never expected this would happen,” Ms. Viswanathan told The New York Sun yesterday. “I had only vaguely thought of becoming a writer. But a book contract? From a major publisher? This is so incredibly unbelievable. It’s so hard to believe that I’m going to be able to walk into a bookstore and see something that I wrote on display there.”

    I think that says a lot about where she was in her head approaching this whole deal. She was probably just writing, almost in a fan-ficcy way, and probably some adult/friend encouraged her to submit her stuff, and then things just blew up from there. It’s chick lit adapted to YA, basically. Plain and simple. It’s not a genre known for it’s insight, depth, or originality – one step up from harlequin romances in my opinion… if I’d been her mother I’d have asked her what she’d been reading, read it myself, read Kaavya’s work, and encouraged her to write, but also to read more… probably easy to say in hindsight, but I’ll definitely be treading carefully.

  24. Thoughts from a librarian/instructor/writer

    I read in the Boston Globe yesterday that she admitted it, but they didn’t cite their source, and said she’s refused all interview requests.

    I recall being told in SECOND grade: “you don’t copy and re-arranging someone’s else’s words is copying.” I don’t buy that she didn’t know what she was doing. Cheating to get ahead was rampant at my high school, even among so-called honor students. I think I copied someone’s chemistry homework ONCE, but it didn’t help me learn the concepts. I never did it again. I flunked a student for plaigarising a paper when I taught children’s lit at community college a few years ago. Kids know it’s wrong; they want to take the easy way out. Is this how Kaavya got into Harvard? By cheating and lying?

    Her book contract should be ripped up and she should be made to pay the publisher back for the costs of reprinting “her” book. I don’t think she belongs at Harvard, either, but I bet the honor code only applies to academics, not personal life.

  25. Wow…

    As a writer, and just as a person, I cannot imagine how I would feel having my writing stolen. I’m sorry, i just can’t believe her. I mean there are just too many similarities between her books and McCafferty’s. It’s just disgusting. And HOW did she get a $500000 contract again? That is unheard of for a writer- a young, newcoming one anyways that has only written two books. If I were her, I would apologize profusely to McCafferty and be thankful that McCafferty has been so considerate.

  26. I agree with you on all the points you hit: 1. Megan McCafferty has handled the situation with utmost grace and dignity – three cheers for her! 2. At seventeen, I probably would have done the unimaginable just to be PUBLISHED – something I didn’t dare *dream* of at the time – can’t imagine how far I would have gone if offered the amount of money Kaavya received. 3. There is so much pressure on people today to make a huge splash before 25 and if they don’t, these kids feel like has-beens roughly a quarter of the way into their lives. The media is constantly hyping the latest Wonder Kid; it’s a ridiculous amount of pressure to put on anyone. -cat

  27. Since this whole thing happened, people have been bashing us teen writers. I don’t think they should punish us all just because of what Kaavya did. Not only that, I think she’s made young writers look bad now. i mean people are probably gonna think twice before they hand someone who’s 17 or younger a contract. What she did was wrong! I don’t have any sympathy for her or believe that it was ‘unintentional’ (Megan is one merciful person not to sue her) But now…teenagers are just getting dissed.

  28. What is this world coming to…

    The question that keeps running through my mind is…why? what possessed her to do this? I mean, it takes all the fun out of writing. Anyone with any dignity wouldn’t be able to put their hands on the money if they hadn’t come up with their own original idea. I mean, I understand…half a million dollars…yes, but what about pride?!? I’m sixteen, and I would never have done something like that.
    I would be super-pissed if someone copied me. If we had to write a short story or poem or something for class and someone stole mine and turned it in…I would probably go cry and then go beat them up! It would be bad.
    This does make teen writers look bad, which makes me sad. We’re not all like that. When you read my “books in progress” you can see some similarities…like you can tell what kind of writers I like to read from, but you can also tell I have completely my own voice. I’m always paranoid about sounding like someone else because I read so many books all the time. I feel bad if the story line even reminds me of another book I read!
    But yeah…all the publishers and everyone had to read it, right? And no one caught it? I smell a conspiracy.

  29. Book report

    Dear Laurie,
    My name is Dominique and i go to washington Junior high in Bentonville arkansas.Me and my friend chelsea decided to do an author report on you because we saw the movie speak and were reading the book now and it is Beautiful.If you have an email adress and are willing to give it to us to ask further questions then you can email me at x_bubble_yum_x@yahoo.com

    Thank you VERY much!

    Dominique

  30. what’s wrong with the world

    I don’t get it. Sometimes I wonder if there is an original thought in any ones head anymore. I blame the thief/wannabe author, but what was the publisher thinking. DO YOUR FREAKIN’ JOB!!!!!!!!! How many potential authors are screwed by her negligence? I just hope this will not happen again anytime soon. I dream of a world with no idiots!

  31. i know i’m commenting on an an old post…

    i go to kaavya’s old high school, and just wanted to mention that most of the teachers/students here believe kaavya didn’t intentionally plagiarize; not really because of her dignity, but simply because she isn’t stupid enough to think that she do that and get away with it – it doesn’t strike a chord with her brilliance.

    1. This must be very painful for them, too. The whole situation is an ugly one.

      There is no question that Kaavya is talented and smart. But she was put in an impossible situation. I cannot think of many authors (myself included) who could write a novel – from scratch – as quickly as she did.

      I suspect that the people from the publishers dropped unsubtle hints about the “direction” they wanted the book to take. I suspect that she used those hints, and borrowed from the books in question. I suspect she was desperate and in way over her head. It was a breach of ethics and irresponsible for the adults surrounding her to have put her in this position. Desperate people do stupid things, regardless of how brilliant they are. That is part of the definition of desperation – being in a position where you act out of character because of the pressures of the moment.

      I wish her the very best, and hope that the adults in her life will work very hard for the next couple of years to give her space and time to work through how this happened, and where she wants to go from here.

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