Literary snark and scandal

The author of How Opal Mehta Got Kissed, Got Wild, and Got A Life is being accused of plagiarism. Reminder: Innocent until proven guilty...anyway, the story was broken by the Harvard Crimson yesterday, and by last night, it had made the Associated Press Wire. By the time you read this, or at least by Tuesday, I imagine it will be the literary scandal d'jour.

It is easy to accidentally reuse a phrase from another book if it sticks in the back of your mind, so hopefully that's what happened. In any case, I'm sure we'll be hearing more about it.

I worry about the author, though. The knives had been sharpening for her as soon as she got a $500K book deal at the tender age of 19.

If you are a young author (say, 29 or under, but especially 25 or under), and you get a major book deal (say, six figures), the knives come out. It's so hard to get published in general, and to get such a high sum in particular, that if people can poke holes in your story, or in you personally, they will. But when you accidentally (or purposely) give them extra fodder, it only gets worse.

The book they're saying she allegedly plagiarized is Sloppy Firsts, a very popular novel in the teen/tween genre (between teen and adult).

After the Harvard U. sophomore's novel finally came out April 4, some reviews said it was a charming book, some others (in fact, one in a Harvard student magazine and the other written by a Harvard sophomore in the NY Observer) wrote about the book and its author with a negative slant.

It goes to show that a huge advance definitely has its downside for a young author - the scrutiny is pretty intense.

Thank god I didn't get $500,000 for Carrie Pilby (ha ha).

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