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?

the perfect high school?

First things first. Thank you, thank you to the students, staff, and parents of the Chadwick School (esp Kim Sonnenblick!) for making my visit so relaxing and enriching. I enjoyed the last two days so much!

Now I am in Cerritos. The ride from Palos Verdes here was mind-boggling; a typical LA mild-traffic jam kind of experience. I guess living out in the country is having more of an effect on me than I realized. I kept thinking who are all of these people? Where are they going? And how do they live so close to each other??? The driver of the car pointed out houses that cost millions of dollars that are – literally- separated from their neighbor’s million dollar house by only a few feet. I cannot get my head around that.

Today is catching up on work day, so I’ll keep this entry short. I have a question for you before I go: if you had a magic wand and were going to create the perfect high school from scratch, what would it be like?

Cali pictures

Green Friday

I’d like to take this moment to say thank you to my Donovan and Foley ancestors for leaving Ireland, braving the Atlantic Ocean, and coming to America. Happy St. Patrick’s Day to all! I’ll be playing Celtic music and scaring the dog with my poor imitation of an Irish jig all day.

My friend (and awesome writer) Susan Campbell Bartoletti, and noted author Patricia Reilly Giff both have excellent books about the Irish Potato Famine.

I’ve been working on pictures books and shoveling the mountains of correspondence that precede a school visit trip. I woke up this morning and watched the sun crawl across the ceiling and came up with the opening lines of this new picture book that’s been nipping at my heels. (Details on next week’s adventure tomorrow.) It’s really nice when new stories start to talk to you.

The Oklahoma House of Representatives passed the bill that forces libraries to remove all books with sexual or homosexual themes (like SPEAK) to the “adults only” section of the library. The vote? 60 for, 33 against. The OK House of Reps doesn’t trust families to choose books for their children. Let’s see – wiretapping without a warrant is legal, book banning is legal… how long will it be before these fringe groups succeed in burning our Constitution to ashes and installing cameras in our homes to monitor our behavior?

If this upsets you, then ask yourself what you have done in the past month to participate in our democracy. If we do not take our government back, this is just the beginning.

And if any of you reading the above two paragraphs feel inclined to make assumptions about my faith or politics based on those opinions, let me state for the record that I am a Christian and I am more conservative than liberal. I am fed up with both political parties. Please let me know if you hear of a political leader who has common sense, who won’t take money from lobbyists, and who has a clue about our country’s history. I haven’t found one yet.

OK, end of rant.

Gerry MacNamara, hold your head up high. We love you and are proud. Did you see Adam Morrison at the end of the Gonzaga game??? Wow. Georgetown plays at 2:35pm on CBS…. might…have…to….wander….by…the…TV…

What is up with Oklahoma?

A bow in appreciation to boricuababy1119 for pointing out my shameful neglect of Women’s History Month. (Check out the poem she posted on my LJ yesterday.) It is the kind of thing we should all be celebrating!!

And appreciation to all of you for sharing your Cat 4 books with yesterday. I suspect a lot of us will be going to the library to check out some new titles.

Speaking of libraries… there is a problem in Oklahoma. The state legislature is very close to passing House Bill 2158. The bill would take away money from Oklahoma libraries unless they move all materials that have “homosexual or sexually explicit subject matter” that were written for kids or young adults into a special “adults-only” section of the library. That’s right – they want to take YA books that contain references to sexual behavior, and the books written for children that explain reproduction, and lock them away in a section of the library that kids cannot access.

You can read more about this, including newspaper editorials and librarians responses at AS IF.

This is ridiculous. If parents don’t want their children to borrow a book like SPEAK or PERKS OF BEING A WALLFLOWER then it is the right and the responsibility of that parent to say “no” to their kid. Is the Oklahoma Legislature implying that parents are incapable of supervising their children? A public library is PUBLIC – it is the sacred space of democracy wherein people are free to learn. Are the people of Oklahoma going to let the government take over the parenting of their children?

I suspect that there has been some clever manipulation going on there. I suspect that someone said “let’s protect the children.” Who wouldn’t support a statement like that? I certainly want to protect children. In fact, my career is based on it. I try to provide stories for kids and teens that will help them look at the confusing world they live in and (I pray) make healthy, moral decisions when they are confronted with difficult choices.

Do any of you know more about this situation that I do? What do you think of this? What would you do if you went to the library and asked for a YA book and was told it was off-limits for anyone under 18 years old? Is it American to censor libraries?

Happy Book News, with vicious rant behind the cut

It’s official: PROM is available in paperback!

::happy dancing::

PROM was also honored by making VOYA’s Top Shelf Fiction for Middle School Readers (check out the whole list for other great titles).

::more happy dancing::

And FEVER 1793 proudly sits on the
2006 Popular Paperbacks for Young Adults List
, chosen by YALSA, the Young Adult Library Services Association of the American Library Association.

I love the way this committee organizes the list. It comes up with fun, funky categories every year. Check out this year’s (descriptions stolen from the committee’s press release):

“Books That Don’t Make You Blush: No Dirty Laundry Here” Books that are fun to read and appeal to all teens.

“Criminal Elements” Fiction and nonfiction about teens that find themselves in opposition to or on the wrong side of the law, as well as stories about lives affected by encounters with the legal system, gangs, law enforcement, and prison.

“What Ails You?” Fiction and nonfiction about how diseases, disorders and other general health related symptoms affect our lives. (This is the list that FEVER is on.)

“GLBTQ” Contemporary fiction and nonfiction for teens of all persuasions.

If you’re looking for something good to read, I strongly suggest you print out the list and take it to the library with you.

::stops dancing to stare at mountain of paperwork on desk::

In the cranky news category: I spent hours and hours again yesterday trying to straighten out the host of Medicare issues that have been hounding my parents for months. Many of you probably don’t care about this so I’m putting it behind a cut:

My rant about Medicare and companies that abuse the elderly and weak