Seriously, Were They Not Listening?

One more time, for the fun of it: NEW RULE. Don’t Write Fiction and Call It A Memoir. Corollary: fear the internet. If you’re writing about gang warfare or surviving the Holocaust, if it ain’t true, then it is fiction.

Seriously, what the crap is going on here?

EDITED TO ADD: Thanks to Anonym2857 for the link: New Rule #2: If your science is not tight, you have even more reason to fear the internet.

…[E]ssentially identical research published by different sets of authors — potential plagiarism — represented about 0.04 percent of MEDLINE’s database (roughly 6,700 cases in all).

Highly similar studies re-published by the same authors represented another 1.3 percent of the database’s documents.

Now the DejaVu database has been created to find “extremely similar Medline citations” and allow the scientific community collaborative access to figure out what’s padding and what’s plagiarism. The DejaVu project is funded by the Hudson Foundation and the National Institutes of Health.

Now, where in tarnation is the Romance novel research granting organization to underwrite all the fact checking that went into our point-by-point examination of Edwards’ novels?

 

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  1. 1
    Catherine Grace says:

    What REALLY burns me up about those is all those recalled books! Trees wasted when those pages could have been put to much better authors. Stupid liars.

  2. 2
    Stephanie says:

    I KNOW, RIGHT?

    I’m sure there’s a great lolcat for this, but I haven’t the time to find one.

  3. 3
    darlynne says:

    I can see where one lie snowballs into a flurry of them, but here’s where I’m stumped: why call it a memoir to begin with? If a story is interesting and well told, wouldn’t it also sell as fiction, thereby escaping the inevitable public condemnation and humiliaton?

  4. 4

    As I said on my own blog, I now see the error of my ways. No wonder I can’t sell my latest manuscript. I’ve been trying to sell my fiction as, well, fiction. From here on out if anyone asks, my name is Lola and I’m a former stripper who ran off to the South Pacific with a sexy, but virginal, virologist.

  5. 5
    Sandra D says:

    If she really felt that she needed to make the story ‘true’ to make it sell better, why not be honest and say that the story is fictional, but that the experiences portrayed are based on true stories she’s collected? I’d buy that.

  6. 6
    redheaded englishwoman says:

    I blame Oprah.

    Okay, not really; but she has helped proliferate the idea of the “based on a true story” as being somehow more relevant or respectable than fiction.

    The press and publicity wagons move much faster on confessional style memoirs – they’re juicy, and everyone gets a vicarious thrill reading them.

    …Though I fail to see why romance novels are less respectable than “10 Years in Hookerdom:  The True Story of Drugs, Debauchery, and a Happy Ending (A fictional memoir)”.

    knew72 – I’ve known a lot of writers, but not quite 72.

  7. 7
    quichepup says:

    I hate the fiction-as-memoir aspect but what really pisses me off is her claim to be half Native American. Could she be Cassie Edwards’s granddaughter?

  8. 8

    I think it is that “vicarious thrill” and some weird belief by many people that non-fiction is more enlightening, more uplifting, and all around more better than fiction. ;) It’s made me nuts for years, especially because of the attendant “Oh Oh! I’m a victim too! Really!” that seems to go along with these things.  Hah!

    Now I’ll go have some coffee and make more sense.

  9. 9
    Joanna S. says:

    O.k.—srsly, people!  There is a market for creative non-fiction.  It might never make it to Oprah’s-Book- Club-Of-Ennui, but it would sell.  And they wouldn’t have to cut off her heat or make her foster mother starve…oh wait, I guess that didn’t happen…

    Now I kinda know why my mom got so much more pissed when she discovered my lies of omission as opposed to just my bald-faced whoppers!

  10. 10
    dillene says:

    I don’t know- I can see why people would want to embellish their life stories with something a little spicier, but I agree that it’s stupid to try and pass that off as straight memoir writing.  Of course, I’m a half-Balinese, half-Spanish government-trained assassin who survived a brutal firefight between the Crips and the Bloods during the Battle of Stalingrad, but I recognize that not everybody has an experience like that.

  11. 11
    Barb Ferrer says:

    This thing burns me to the point the ends of my hair are smoking.  Swear to GOD, I’m seething—for a lot of different reasons.

    Sometimes, these books DO get written and submitted as novels—then they’re rejected, over and over again because the author doesn’t have the platform or authority to make the book ring true.

    Change it to a memoir, and all of a sudden, it’s hot. I wish I could remember where I read this part of the story, but from what I recall, James Frey actually wrote Million Little Pieces as a novel and his agent was submitting it as such and it was getting rejected as such. Then apparently, some editor said something to the effect of, “You know, this would really rock if it was a memoir,” and voila! Oprah was calling.

    *wanders off muttering really vile things*

  12. 12
    Miri says:

    Dude, i’m right here in Eugene! Why do all the weird girls move to Eugene? I mean…you know what i mean…
    Her sister narc’d on her too. Funny.

  13. 13

    This was the same publisher who was involved in the James Frey “memoir”.  Are they even familiar with the phrase “due diligence”?  How about “If your mother says she loves you, check it out”?

    I’m getting tired of my daily dose of publishing “WTF?”

  14. 14
    Tina says:

    You know, after reading that article, I feel a great Law and Order script coming on…

    It’s weird, I’ve written gay erotic stories in the first person, but I’ve never submit these stories because—well, what man wants to read about a gay man’s first time, written by some one named Tina Anderson?  :/  I’m not saying we should stop writing ‘faction’ fiction, but we certainly owe it to the reader to tell them it’s 100% BS.

    I also fee she could have come clean with her editor; if the book is as compelling as they say it is, the publisher could’ve added a by-line calling it fiction.  “Superfly Snooky: A Memoir of My Bad Self – a NOVEL by Timothy Whitenoise”.  There’s no shame in calling it fiction.

    -my clearance word: serious99

  15. 15
    Joy says:

    I blame the publishers most of all!  What is it with their desire to believe any cockamammy story of how I came through hell and became a sensitive author.  Have they got some kind of fixation on this?  Is this their secret fantasy that they so easily believe all this stuff?  Didn’t editors used to edit or at least do more than correct spelling?  Where was Cassie Edwards publisher when she was lifting stuff?  Gads!  When I think of authors legitimately sending their novels out to be rejected when these idiots get published because their “life story” is so neat to send around to talk shows, it makes me sick.

  16. 16
    RedSonja says:

    I found it interesting that it was her SISTER who blew the whistle on her, after seeing a story in the paper. Which raises two questions:

    1)Didn’t her family KNOW she had written a book and read it already?

    2)How did she think her family would react when they read that? I mean, really????

  17. 17
    Barb Ferrer says:

    According to the LA TImes

    “I think she got caught up in the facts of the story she was trying to write,” Gay Seltzer said. “She’s always been an activist and she tried to draw on the immediacy of the situation and became caught up in the persona of the narrator. She’s very sorry and very upset.”

    Gay Seltzer, of Sherman Oaks, said she had been aware of her daughter’s book, but had not read it or known that it was a purportedly personal account of gang life.

  18. 18
    Kwana says:

    This whole thing makes me crazy and I blogged about it today. I hate the whole exploitive way this was done too. Even the characters names are sterotypical, “Big Mom” and “Terrell”. Was she watching an after school special on gangs when she thought that up?

    Can’t a book just get published because it’s a good book anymore?

  19. 19

    Honestly, I’d have to say I also blame our society because we’ve gotten to the point where people think that anyone can write a book.  Just dash off a few lines and send it to some publisher and they’ll cut you a check. 

    It’s not that easy.

    In addition, media since the 1980s with CNN, has become more of an entertainment venue than real reporting.  My editor at the daily paper use to say I need a face for this story.  In other words, the facts were nice and all, but he wanted the emotional gut pull of a person we could identify with to bring it all together.

    And the media is so intent on getting the “heat” (controversey) that they don’t care about the “light” truth.  Hence books of “true experiences” that stir up a lot of controversey are jumped at, where less-compelling, but true stories are snubbed.

    Which brings about point number two.  Do you think there is more plagairism now than before, or are we just able to identify it more easily?  Either way it really ticks me off that the people who work to come up with the right words are being ripped off by the people who can’t be bothered, but want the credit.

    spamalot: change84 (humm, that was about the time that everything started to change…interesting, does your spam filter read minds too?)

  20. 20
    Molly says:

    Theresa, I think that there is probably the same amount of plagiarism and fake “memoirs” that there ever was, but the internet, google books, etc. make it so much easier to get caught! In a way I hope that these scandals will have a positive effect by drilling into the heads of wannabe-plagiarists-and-liars that they WON’T get away with it.

  21. 21
    M. Babinsk says:

    Very nice tips!
    thank you

  22. 22
    Charlene says:

    My editor at the daily paper use to say I need a face for this story.  In other words, the facts were nice and all, but he wanted the emotional gut pull of a person we could identify with to bring it all together.

    And that is one of the main reasons for the dumbing down of America. If a story, no matter how important, doesn’t have ‘emotional gut pull’ or, more disgustingly, a ‘local angle’, it doesn’t get reported. Many important stories don’t have an emotional gut pull or a local angle, but they’re still important.

  23. 23
    Leah says:

    “She’s very sorry and very upset.”

    I’d like to be compassionate…but I think she’s sorry and upset that she got caught.

  24. 24
    wordworm says:

    i was going to do a big Rave-And-Rant until i read

    s post…she’s sorry and upset that she got caught….people have been writing MEMOIRS since Autobiographies lost their cachet…and every few months or so you hear about some poor schlub getting caught with his/hers pants down that their Memoir is .,.,.partially…FICTION!!!!!-gasp!!!!most of my memories as a child are….Fiction…or

    ,…and i’m not writing any books…i think readers should stop expecting MEMOIRS to be Gospel…and should focus on their OWN LIVES!!!!nuff said

  25. 25
    SonomaLass says:

    I don’t think any of us expect memoirs to be completely accurate in terms of objective reality, because memory isn’t like that.  But that’s very different from making up incidents and people, and lying about your entire background!  These latest examples are egregious, and deliberate, and I’m glad these lying liars got caught.  We don’t need “pretend” sisters of gang members any more than we need “pretend” Holocaust survivors, “pretend” survivors of sexual abuse, et cetera.  They devalue the experiences (and yes, the writing and memoirs) of the people who really lived those lives.

    Shame on them.  And as SB Sarah says, “Fear the internet!  You WILL get CAUGHT.”

  26. 26
    Barb Ferrer says:

    You know, the more I find out about this situation, the more it utterly frosts my cookies.  Reading the profile that the New York Times ran on her last week my blood pressure went higher and higher.  (This would be the story that ultimately busted her little fantasy world because her sister revealed it to be utter bullshit)

    I’m simply staggered at not only the condescension, but at the blatant racial stereotypes she perpetuates throughout the course of the profile.  You know, when I went to college we learned a word for her kind—sociopath.

    Like so many others, I vented my spleen (yes, even more—this is a hot button topic for me) at my blog.

    I also vented my spleen on the lady who cut me off in the Target parking lot as well.  *g*

  27. 27
    Kwana says:

    Barb! I thought the same thing. I said so in my blog this morning. The names she gave say it so cleary. Like she’s doing a poor imitation of gang life in Black America. It’s insulting.

  28. 28
    Donna says:

    I saw that article – about the woman who wrote that she survived the holocoust (spelling?) by escaping at the age of 4, then she lived with wolves, etc.

    Then, to find out, she’s not even Jewish!  WTF?!?!

    And she was an old lady that lied about all this.  Not some youngster.  This lady should know better! 

    Bottom Line – Don’t lie.  It always comes back to bite you in the butt.

  29. 29
    Rachel says:

    Many people in concentration camps during the Holocaust were not Jewish; Jews were a primary target of the Nazis, but they were not the only target.  (There were plenty of Catholics, Gypsies, homosexuals of any background, and I’m sure quite a few other people.)  So the fact that she wasn’t Jewish doesn’t itself mean anything.

    Raised by wolves, though?  Isn’t that setting the belief-o-meter a little high?

  30. 30
    Claudia says:

    Love and Consequences sounds like an Urban Secret life of Bees. I can easily imagine a publisher salivating over the possibilities of such a memoir, but given Frey’s great fall, I still can’t belive no one’s fact checking these books prior to publication.

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