The Elephant In The Room

A few people have emailed and asked if I was going to chime in on the Cassie Edwards’ fiasco. Honestly, I wasn’t. Other sites covered the situation far better than I could have, so I refrained. The situation made me sad and frustrated. Every single time I see allegations like this, in or out of the romance community, I get sad and frustrated. Since I could not say anything nice or helpful, I decided only to leave a comment at Dear Author about my general feelings about plagiarism (don’t do it!) and leave it at that. I thought that would be sufficient since I naively believed there would not be much disagreement on this topic and Edwards’ conduct. After all, Edwards said that she used sources without attribution because she did not think she had to give credit, and the passages comparing her work to the nonfiction sources she used showed that her version of “using sources” was actually a verbatim cut-and-paste. Frankly, with all of that, this did not seem like a hard issue to me. She did something wrong, or at the very least questionable. You don’t borrow, take or whatever other people’s work and co-opt it as your own.

Straightforward, no? Apparently not everywhere. The discussion on this in the newspapers and outside of the romance blog world recognizes that this is a topic worthy of discussion and that the allegations require further review. It’s the conversation within the romance community that has me concerned. There are excuses about Edwards’ age, a great deal of blaming-the-messenger (ie, Smart Bitches) and on one writing loop there’s a ridiculous amount of discourse about how awful the Smart Bitches are for speaking ill of Edwards all while the speakers say awful things about the Smart Bitches.

Unfortunately, this confirms my belief that the romance community has a serious problem with introspection and self-monitoring. My only solace in this mess is that Nora Roberts stepped forward and said her view in a straightforward manner, stating that Edwards’ actions were not okay. Roberts did this even though she and Edwards share a publisher. It was a gutsy move. If only we could all be so dignified in expressing our remarks and positions.

18 Responses to “The Elephant In The Room”

  1. What you said.

  2. I was so scared to read this blog post, what with all the accusations of witch hunts and power mad bloggers made by AUTHORS. So thank you. That this position seems to be the exception rather than the rule is beyond depressing to me.

  3. It is a bummer to see another romance writer linked with plagiarism. The Janet Dailey fiasco doesn’t seem that long ago. But romance writers are the only ones to steal another’s work. When I was in college in the dark ages, the editor and a reporter lost their positions when it was discovered that they were still articles from popular magazines. Duh!!!!! It is a college paper with readers, who just might read Psychology Today.

  4. Yikes! I’ve been keeping a close eye on this story and actually posted in defense of Edwards that first day. I don’t like the idea that my comments were construed as shooting the messenger rather than expressing my heartfelt, if erroneous, opinion. I’m anti-plagiarism, of course, and pro-Smart Bitches, natch.

    Anyway, you said it a lot better than I did, HelenKay!

  5. You said it best, HelenKay!

  6. Yep. What you said (James, 2008).

  7. Meljean knows how to give credit. See, it’s not hard.

  8. It seems a lot of authors have been “told” that by being silent , they are condoning what CE did, because I’ve seen quite a few posts these last few days speaking out. I don’t believe that to be true, but I do appreciate you speaking out. We should be standing up against plagarism, and not picking fights with each other. I give SB credit for bringing this issue to light

  9. Leave the country for two weeks…

    I’m glad I’m not on those lists! My lists have been burning up with authors condemning Edwards! I had hundreds of digests to weed through.

  10. Bringing it to light was the right thing to do. Numerous examples of the offense have been documented. It has been brought to the attention of the author, the publisher, the offended parties, the media, and the reading public. Once you’ve said, “Plagiarism is theft,” what else is there to say, really, particularly to those who insist no wrong was done? Those left shaking their heads over that incomprehensible and immovable stance are catching flak for not adding to the hubbub, as if whoever makes the most noise wins and they’re not doing their share.

    Meljean wrote an extremely eloquent piece that gets to the heart of why plagiarism is an insult to writers everywhere.

  11. there’s a ridiculous amount of discourse about how awful the Smart Bitches are for speaking ill of Edwards all while the speakers say awful things about the Smart Bitches.

    I’d add my pot / kettle graphic here if I could because, yeah. The hypocrisy amazes.

  12. Thanks, HelenKay.

    ~Once you’ve said, “Plagiarism is theft,” what else is there to say, really, particularly to those who insist no wrong was done? ~

    A lot, I think, especially to those who insisted or stated that because they simply didn’t understand the issue. Making the issue clear, discussing the issue, educating both readers and writers on just what plagiarism and copyright infringement are is, imo, an important thing.

    I don’t agree silence means those who choose to remain so approve of plagiarism, or don’t see it as a big. But I was, and am, suprised–as I was back when I was dealing with it–that so many in our community choose silence. That so many seem to feel by speaking they’re adding to a ‘pile-on’, as I’ve heard it called.

    If writers won’t stand up and say plagiarism is wrong, who will?

  13. Many of us write for a living. We should understand how precious and the words and phrases are. Stepping up and stating that taking the work of others and making it your own is wrong is not a pile on. Frankly, it’s common sense or at least I thought it was. I stayed somewhat quiet on this subject not out of fear but because it seemed so obvious. It was not until I saw post after post and read email after email where the conversation shifted “how dare the Smart Bitches” and “but Cassie Edwards is 71 so we should cut her a break” and the like that I decided to say something. As Nora says, if we don’t stand up who the heck will?

    And I think we need to keep talking about this. There are apologists who try to explain away plagiarism and copyright infringement by looking at what’s happening in the accused person’s life. There is a person on one loop I’m on who insists you can’t steal nonfiction work. In her view, you can take whatever you want out of nonfiction and make it your own since it’s only a reference. I’m still trying to figure out that logic. There are those who say we should keep quiet because this situation reflects poorly on the romance genre. I say all of that is crap. This happens across all genres. This is not a romance thing. At the moment, however, it’s a Cassie Edwards thing and she happens to be a romance author. We need to deal with it and keep talking about it until all of the excuses and confusion are gone. We need to show that we “get” it. Using work as a reference is fine. Taking it word-for-word is not. If you get all of your background and use significant information from a nonfiction source, then say what you need to say in your own words and include an Author’s Note that gives credit to the nonfiction book.

  14. Good post, HelenKay. Plagarism is wrong, and I agree with you that that principle, that ideal, should be obvious.

    I always wondered *why* someone would plagarize, especially a writer who’s supposed to love, well, writing. Sure, it might be quick and easy, and maybe someone’s under enormous pressure, financial or otherwise. But deep down you would know the words weren’t *yours*. Wouldn’t that just eat away at you? Not to mention karmic retribution somewhere down the line …

  15. Thank you, HelenKay, and Nora R, and others of you writers who are also wonderful voices of reason in this mess. Ugh!

  16. Word.

  17. Sorry there is such a problem with copying others works, but unfortunately there is no way to make people ethical in any job, it seems,

  18. I agree with you. I have been trying to figure out since the story broke how she could copy and paste instead of reading the section and sitting back thinking about what she just read then writing it in her own words to fit the story she was writing. Isn’t that what writers are supposed to do? Take things they know, things they learn about and use their own words? She is supposed to be a creative writer and all of that, I’ve never read a book of hers so I’m just assuming. But I don’t know it just seems like people don’t understand that concept of writing either so they don’t get mad about it.

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