... and I'll write not two, but THREE of the best, most original novels you'd ever want to read. There will be no plagiarism, I will research all of my facts, I will make you laugh, cry, and it will be the bestest thing you've ever read. And original! How about that!
Why $500,000? That's the Little, Brown advance amount given to Harvard student Kaavya Viswanathan while she was still in high school to write two books. The first book of the two book deal, How Opal Mehta Got Kissed, Got Wild, and Got a Life, reached to number 32 on the New York Times' best seller list. Unfortunately passages from Viswanathan's book closely resemble original passages from the 2001 book Sloppy Firsts by Megan F. McCafferty.
All sorts of excuses are being bandied about regarding how passages from McCafferty's book found their way into Viswanathan's book, but the bottom line is that McCafferty came up with original passages that were her creation. Come up with your own damn ideas and strings of words that make up a book. Especially if someone is paying you $500,000 to do it as a high schooler. Do you really think someone won't notice?
In the immortal words of Bill the Cat, "ACK!"
I have to admit that I've thought about writing the story of my life under the title of Miscegenated Bastard Out of Detroit, which is a play on Dorothy Allison's book Bastard Out of Carolina, but only because it sounds really cool, and I really want to use the words "miscegenated," "bastard," and "Detroit" in the same sentence. And, well, cause it's true, too.
I am so sick and tired of people who are blessed enough to have found their way either onto the pages of top newspapers or pursued by big publishing houses only to have it later found out that they are simply fakes and frauds.
So, James Frey (who just made shit up and called it his memoir), Kaavya Viswanathan, Jayson Blair, Ben Domenech and all of you other little freaks out there who are given the opportunity of a lifetime only to fuck it all up, you really do get what you deserve: public shunning. I'm sorry to be so harsh about this, but if you use other people's stuff without acknowledgment or attribution, that's the only solution, short of branding. You just better be happy that I'm not into that sort of thing.
One pattern of the four plagiarism cases we've seen pop up in the last few years are that they are all young writers under 30 years of age (Frey is 37, so he should have really known better) , raised on computers were cutting and pasting and changing things slightly have been the norm. Young writers who have not been taught the sacredness of protecting original work (even though Blair was a freaking journalist and Domenech was... well, I can't figure out what he was or is... ); young writers who download other people's copyrighted stuff with abandon in regards to music and film; young writers who buy $5.00 videos from the streets of blockbuster movies; young writers who apparently haven't been taught that it's just wrong to steal other people's stuff without attribution.
Yes, I'm a librarian and copyright is important to me... and YES, I do use photos from the web for this blog, but there's rules about that, too. I follow them as much as possible and attribute where certain photos come from when I can.
If there are any agents out there reading this and you have $100,000 lying around anywhere, I'll sign a one book deal tomorrow. I promise you it will be a heartbreaking work of staggering genius.*
*Oh wait... I think that's taken...