Monday, October 16, 2006

Life After the Fall

I'm sure we all recall last year Kaavya Visvanathan's Opal Mehta disaster. For those of you who need a recap: Harvard sophomore gets 500K book deal to write YA novel, she copies ideas, plot lines, and exact phrases from big name books such as Sloppy Seconds and The Princess Diaries. Girl gets busted, girl blames pressure from Alloy Entertainment and a photographic memory, her book gets torn off shelves, girl disappears.

Since that disaster, Kaavya has done an internship over the summer, and is now back at Harvard.

The question is, if you were in Kaavya's shoes what would you do next?
a. Jump into a profession completely unrelated to writing
b. Write a tell-all book about that period in your life
c. Write a completely original second novel
d. Seek a job in publishing.

I personally write in the same genre as Kaavya, ethnic YA, and was super-jealous when she got her book deal. There goes that genre, I thought, who can do it better than the genius sophomore.
Then she gets busted. Was I secretly smug? Yes, of course. Any human being would be. Was I terrified that maybe that genre was now a curse? That any author trying to get in was screwed? Yes, of course.

Am I giving up? Not a chance. Writing is my great love and this genre comes naturally to me. I ain't going anywhere, plagarism scandal be dammed.

So now I wonder about Kaavya. Will she ever be allowed into this industry again? Will she ever be anything but that girl who copied Meg Cabot?

What do you guys think?

Dona Sarkar-Mishra
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Chapters & Chai - Read all about it


MaNiC MoMMy™ said...

I've been wondering about her for a long time and would love to get an update on her. I would also love to get my hands on the book and read it now to see what it's like.

I read James Frey's book well before Oprah raved over it and that whole thing went down. I loved it. I loved his writing. I still love his writing, and if he were to come out with a fiction work, I'd buy it.

This chick though, I think she really did the worse of the two evils. Do you think so?

By the way, I love BOOKS, BOYS, BUZZ and thanks to my friend Stephanie Hale for getting me over here!

GeminiWisdom said...

I think she should get into something else. I mean, really, who's going to touch her stuff now? Everyone's going to be asking the same thing: "So, who did she copy from THIS time?" Frankly, I'd want to disappear of the face of the Earth for doing something that stupid.

I don't have a photographic memory, but that's one reason why I don't read ANYTHING else when I'm in writing mode. My subsconscious picks up on little things and I'd be afraid it'll all end up in my books somehow

Marley Gibson said...

I agree with Gemini...she should get into something else. Whatever her major is at Harvard, she should pursue it with zest and become the best in her field. It's really sad what happened. I didn't want to believe that someone could be so smart, yet so stupid as to copy exact phrases, paragraphs, plot lines from other books. I think she learned a very important life-lesson, but perhaps the publishing world learned something, too. I wish her all the best.

I agree with Manic Mom that the James Frey situation was totally different. He shopped the book as fiction to begin with and it was deemed "unbelievable," so they lied when marketing it to get the book deal. Was it right? Hell no. Was it how he got his work published? Apparently so...

Marley = )

stephhale said...

I don't think Kaavya has a chance in H-E- double hockey sticks of ever getting published again. I actually read the book and it isn't even that good. I couldn't believe how much they paid for it and this was BEFORE the scandal was exposed. I'm just wondering if she wrote up a proposal on a whim thinking she'd make a little money for college then it exploded into this monumental deal then she panicked and plagurized. I'm hoping that's how it went down and not the other way around, otherwise, she doesn't deserve to be at Harvard in my opinion.
Dona~ I don't think this put a damper on ethnic ya at all. In the end it's still going to be an original voice and story that wins out in the end, it just might not get as much $$ or publicity. You're going to do it girl!
Manic Mom~ I've got your addy sending u "the book" and thanks for visiting.
Celise~ You're an original and I don't think you ever have to worry about other's stuff seeping in! :)

TinaFerraro said...

Dona, I followed this story quite closely at the time, but the last I'd heard, her future was undecided at Harvard, so thanks for this update.

From what I garnered, she wrote this book at the suggestion of an ivy league counselor, as a way to have
"that something extra" to get into Harvard. From this--and the fact she lifted so many passages--I came to look at this book as an extended term paper or entrance application essay, and not evidence that creative writing was a real calling for her.

That said--and the fact I can't believe another book of hers would or should sell--I am with the others here who think it's wise she choose another major and career choice.


Dona Sarkar-Mishra said...

I agree with you guys and think that she should get into medicine or law or whatever she wanted to do other than publishing...if she got into editing or agenting, I personally, would NEVER go with her.

One regret I have is that I never grabbed the book while it was in stores. I really wanted to see what all the hype was about :(

Oh well, hopefully she's learned a lesson and all the would-be writers in the world realize that copying someone else's work is never worth it :)

Trish Ryan said...

I agree - I think she'll get into something else. From the sound of her interviews, she wasn't all that into being a writer anyway, it was just something extra, like a little hobby. I also suspect she'll change her name.

Anonymous said...

I would have to pretty much agree with everyone else here, she should take another career path and since it sounds like she was never really passionate about writing anyway. However if she should chose to write again, a pen name would definitely be in order and the even sadder thing is there would probably be an agent or publishing house willing to take a chance on her.

Anonymous said...

Dona, this was a great post. I almost bought the book (the day before the scandal hit the news) and now I'm really wishing I had. Because I've read Megan McAfferty's books and they were terrific. Also, I think Megan handled the situation very professionally.

As for Kaayva, I agree with everyone else. She should find something else to do with her life

Dona Sarkar-Mishra said...

Janie: I wish I had the book too! Ironically, I didnt get the book because I didn't want her writing to affect mine.

Now that would have been a story, plagarizing from a plagarizer!

Anonymous said...

She should probably find something else to do -- it's doubtful that anyone would publish any book of hers now! I wish I'd gotten a chance to read this book & see what it's like!

Diana Peterfreund said...

I followed it pretty closely as well, since it was one of the "Ivy League" chick lits and the scandal broke almost directly before my book hit the shelves.

By the way, if you want to know what Kaavya is up to now, she's joining the all women finals club, Isis:

and writing for the Radcliffe Alumni mag:

Anonymous said...

I followed this closely when it all went down because I found it so interesting. Lots of angles. If I were Kaavya, I'd definitely go into another field. Which is sad because being a novelist is most likely her dream. Well, there's always Playboy. They love the scandelous chicks. Ha ha.


Simone Elkeles said...

I think she could still write if that's what she really wanted to do, although it would HAVE to be uber-original and stellar. And I'm not sure any publisher would buy anything she wrote, she cost her publisher a lot of money.

Dona, the multi-cultural thing is way hot and you'll be the one on the front cover of magazines and newspapers with the headline, "This author gets it right the first time!"
~Simone Elkeles

Me said...

I'm going with the majority and saying she'll probably never be published again. Sure, she could try the whole psuedonym thing, but this industry has a lo-o-ong memory. Besides, I think that if she truly loved writing in the first place, if it was her great passion in life, she would never have demeaned it by plagiarizing.