Hello everyone and happy December! A big congratulations to those of you who completed or participated in NaNoWriMo. I hope you’re giving yourselves a bit of a break now (maybe by… reading a book). I also hope everyone celebrating holidays this month are enjoying the season.
As we’re all well aware at this point, the world doesn’t necessarily care about accomplishments and holidays; controversy doesn’t take time off. And this week the book world had quite a few. So let’s get into them, shall we?
So something really bizarre happened on Twitter recently. Children of Blood and Bone author Tomi Adeyemi tweeted a lament that “another artist” was “trying to shamelessly profit off” her work with side by side images of her novel and another with a similar title.
Now, accusations of art theft should be treated seriously, especially when coming from marginalized creators. After all, there’s a long history of cultural appropriation and the theft of POC creations in the publishing industry. However, the other artist Adeyemi was referring to was best-selling author Nora Roberts, whose new book Of Blood And Bone comes out this month.
Aside from the fact that variations on “blood and bone” appear in many titles across genres, there are a number of things wrong with Adeyemi’s accusation. First, Roberts has developed a huge following throughout her career. She sells her books on her name and reputation alone, and she thus doesn’t really need to capitalize on the success of a similarly titled book. Second, the two books would have been going through the publishing process at pretty much the same time, so Roberts’ book would have had its title long before Adeyemi’s book hit shelves.
Twitter followers got involved and apparently harassed Roberts enough for her to set the record straight by personally reaching out to Adeyemi and further clarifying the situation in a blog post. Meanwhile, Adeyemi updated her followers and said she apologized to Roberts. Still, one would expect a little more after such a big (and entirely avoidable) misstep.
The whole thing should go down as an example of why authors should talk to their publishers or agents with concerns like this before taking to social media.
Pushcart Prize Deals with Plagiarism
And now in a case of actual stealing… Pushcart Prize nominations were recently released and several up and coming poets were on the prestigious list. But not all the buzz has been positive since one of the nominees has been called out for plagiarism.
Poet Rachel McKibbens tweeted that poet Ailey O’Toole plagiarized her work for these awards. O’Toole’s nominated poem “Gun Metal” allegedly takes imagery and language directly from McKibbens’ 2017 poem “three strikes.”
A poem that plagiarizes me was nominated for a Pushcart. I HOPE WE WIN!
— Rachel McKibbens (@RachelMcKibbens) December 1, 2018
This is especially egregious as McKibbens’ blud, the collection to which “three strikes” belongs, is incredibly personal. It recounts McKibbens’ experience of trauma and her painful childhood. According to McKibbens, writing this recent collection has even put her in danger, which has prevented her from promoting her own work. For someone to take her trauma and capitalize off of it is just beyond tacky.
After McKibbens’ tweets, Rhythm and Bones Lit pulled O’Toole’s upcoming collection and issued an apology. Other publications have followed suit and pulled O’Toole’s work as well. And at the time of this writing, no less than ten poets have come forward with similar plagiarism complaints against O’Toole, including Hieu Minh Nguyen, Brenna Twohy, and Wanda Deglane.
Mystery Writers of America Withdraws Honour Novelist
Mystery Writers of America came under fire last week after announcing that it would honour novelist Linda Fairstein with one of its “Grand Master” awards for literary achievement. According to The New York Times, the reason for the backlash was Fairstein’s role in the conviction of the Central Park Five — black teenagers falsely convicted of rape in 1989. Fairstein was New York City prosecutor at the time and oversaw the case.
Attica Locke, another Edgar Award winner, was one of the members to bring attention to the issue. She tweeted that Fairstein was “almost single-handedly responsible for the wrongful incarceration of the Central Park Five.”
.@EdgarAwards As a member and 2018 Edgar winner, I am begging you to reconsider having Linda Fairstein serve as a Grand Master in next year’s awards ceremony. She is almost singlehandedly responsible for the wrongful incarceration of the Central Park Five. 1/
— attica locke (@atticalocke) November 27, 2018
Fairstein fired back on Twitter, defending her office’s work and downplaying her role in the case.
Nevertheless, the Board of MWA eventually pulled the award. In a recent statement, they said that although they were unaware of Fairstein’s role in the case when they originally decided to recognize her, they have decided that they “cannot move forward with an award that lacks the support of such a large percentage of our members.”
The 2018 Bad Sex Awards
And now, since we all need a little break from the controversy and drama, I give you the 2018 Bad Sex Award Nominees. The Bad Sex Awards are presented by the Literary Review and showcase “outstandingly bad” erotic writing. This year’s all-male shortlist includes Haruki Murakami, James Frey, William Wall and more. Check out excerpts from their works in The Guardian if you want a laugh.
Queen of Air and Darkness by Cassandra Clare
Revolution Sunday by Wendy Guerra, translated by Achy Obejas
Radiant Shimmering Light by Sarah Selecky
My Favorite Half-Night Stand by Christina Lauren
Once Upon a River by Diane Setterfield