“One Bad Apple” – How My Words Are No Longer Mine Alone

The worst part of being plagiarized is the feeling of isolation. You discover your words on another blog. Then come the inevitable questions. What do you do? Do you tell someone? Do you confront the plagiarist privately? Do you alert the community publicly? Should you choose to expose the plagiarist, you run the risk of being called all manner of names. ‘Bitch’. ‘Bully’. ‘Crazy’. ‘Jealous’. Pick an adjective, any adjective! Should you choose to say nothing at all, you allow someone to continue to steal your work without credit or consequence, all while you internalize your own feelings of frustration, resentment and anger. There are no ‘right’ or easy answers. You are the inevitable loser in a game you never agreed to play.

Book blogging has changed my life for the better. I have often spoken at length about how grateful I am to be a part of such a wonderful, powerful, supportive community. About the opportunities book blogging has afforded me and how much it has given me, most notable of which are the life-changing friendships I now can’t imagine my life without. I have been welcomed, accepted and embraced at every turn, and have been able to hone my own writing in this tiny corner of the internet I call my own. What the community is not, however, is perfect.

Plagiarism in the book blogging community is certainly nothing new. Two notable instances were The Story Siren incident (1 ● 2 ● 3) and more recently the case of Samantha Reed (1), as helpfully and explicitly outlined by Cuddlebuggery. I just never thought it would happen to me.

Here’s the truth: For more than three months now, a fellow blogger, Talina at Sassy and Dangerous, has been plagiarizing portions of posts I’ve shared on Pop! Goes The Reader. This plagiarism was insidious in its subtlety. It was never word-for-word. It was a sentence here, a sentence there. Small enough to allow for plausible deniability should it ever come to light. Large enough that friends began to notice the similarity between our two blogs, each of my posts having been written days, weeks, or even months prior to hers. My words. My voice. No longer mine alone.

At first, I told no-one, save for a few close friends. Each time this happened, I consulted with them, sharing my original post and Talina’s subsequent one, double-checking to see whether this was all in my head. Self-doubt is the lovely parting gift of the plagiarist. Am I imagining things? Am I overreacting? Am I being too sensitive? Is this really happening? In retrospect, I think I wanted to believe that it was all a mistake or a misunderstanding because were this true I wouldn’t have to acknowledge that it was happening or confront the problem head-on.

I bring this up now not to hurt Talina’s feelings or publicly shame her. I do this because I’m concerned that I might not be the only one she has lifted passages from. In most cases, plagiarism is very rarely an isolated incident or limited to a single source. I can continue to check for my own content but others should have the knowledge and the ability to protect themselves as well. Based on the most recent correspondence I received from Talina yesterday, she has no remorse for what she has done, nor has any intention to change or curb her behaviour. I don’t know what else to do.

Please Note: Talina made a point of editing a great number of these posts, which she freely admits to in the emails I have included below, after I sent her my initial email with my concerns on October 20, 2015. I was careful to take screenshots before she could re-write them.


THE EVIDENCE

My Waiting On Wednesday Post On September 30, 2015

You can read my original post in its entirety Here.

Talina’s Waiting On Wednesday Post On October 7, 2015



My Waiting On Wednesday Post On October 14, 2015

You can read my original post in its entirety Here.

Talina’s Open Letter To Shannon Parker On October 19, 2015



My Waiting On Wednesday Post On October 14, 2015

You can read my original post in its entirety Here.

Talina’s Interview With Shannon Parker On October 25, 2015


THE CONFRONTATION: PART I

I was frustrated, angry and hurt. I dedicate hours to Pop! Goes The Reader’s maintenance each day, carefully choosing just the right words to convey what I’m feeling about a book I’m reading or a release I’m looking forward to. To see my posts scavenged for parts, my hard work passed off as someone else’s, was demoralizing. That said, I didn’t want to make a fuss. I didn’t want to blow things out of proportion. I wanted to resolve things kindly and privately so that no further harm was done. I wasn’t interested in publicly shaming or bullying anyone. I simply took screen-captures of each occurrence and emailed Talina with my concerns on October 20, 2015.

My First Email To Talina


(Click to enlarge)

I received two emails from Talina in response on October 20, 2015, later that same day.

Talina’s First Email Response


(Click to enlarge)

Notable Excerpts

“I now see the close resemblance even though our words are written out differently.”

“I apologize deeply if you think I did this intentionally, which is not the case. “

“I will immediately go in and edit my words better as to where our sentences don’t resemble.”

“From now on, I will absolutely be more careful of my words.”

“…Just in case someone else had a resemblance to my own sentences.”

This final excerpt from her email is perhaps my favourite. Despite the fact that I had proven definitively that each of my posts were written and published prior to hers, Talina attempts to make it seem as though my sentences are the ones that resemble hers, and not vice versa.

Talina’s Secomd Email Response


(Click to enlarge)

Notable Excerpts

“I have just edited and worded my sentences were it does not resemble anymore.”

“I hope you understand that I never plagiarized you or anyone else intentionally.”

Please keep these hollow apologies and promises to change in mind. Trust me. We’ll have a good laugh about this later.


THE CONFRONTATION: PART II

November passed quietly. I was happy and, most of all, relieved. I have always tried to be a positive force in the community and never wanted to become embroiled in anything like this. I thought the situation was resolved. Apparently, I was wrong.

On Wednesday, December 9, 2015, Talina’s latest Waiting On Wednesday post was re-tweeted on my Twitter timeline. I had previously stopped checking her blog for my own mental health, tired of anxiously checking for signs of plagiarism and compiling evidence just in case. You can therefore imagine my disappointment when I decided to check Talina’s latest post and found that my hope and trust in her sincerity had been grossly misplaced.

It was small, but it was there. That familiar cadence and structure. On its own, the similarities in our two posts are something I might otherwise have dismissed as a simple coincidence, had I not seen it done on at least three occasions before.

My Waiting On Wednesday Post On October 21, 2015

You can read my original post in its entirety Here.

Talina’s Waiting On Wednesday On December 9, 2015

Why was Talina discussing forthcoming titles and release dates in this post? How was it relevant to the post as a whole? In my original Waiting On Wednesday post, I brought up familiarity with the industry and forthcoming titles in relation to how rare it is that I am now able to discover a book on my own without first hearing about it from a publicist, author or blogger. Talina lifts portions of this discussion without any connective thread or context. It simply makes no sense.



When I saw that Talina had returned to Pop! Goes The Reader and was once again mimicking the structure of my paragraphs, my arguments, and my thoughts despite numerous apologies and promises to ‘be more careful’ in the future, that was the final straw. I felt like I was being taken advantage of. After all, I had stressed to Talina that I wasn’t interested in publicly shaming her or bringing this to the community’s attention if I didn’t need to. With no incentive to stop and no consequences for her actions, however, what was to stop her from continuing to plagiarize my work in the future?

Still, I wanted to give her one final chance to change. One final warning before I would be forced to reveal this, because I couldn’t bear to keep it all inside any longer. I wrote one, final email later that same day, on Wednesday, December 9, 2015.


(Click to enlarge)

Approximately three hours later, I received her response.


(Click to enlarge)

This time, however, Talina was singing a very different tune. Gone were the profuse apologies, the promises for change, the careful editing of her posts in order to cover her tracks after I contacted her with my concerns. But if Talina did nothing wrong, as she claims, if she was ‘in no way plagiarizing me’, why did she previously send two emails riddled with apologies? Why did she feel the need to edit her posts after I originally confronted her about this issue back in October?

In response to all that had transpired, a close friend of mine who is also an author (and wishes to remain unnamed) decided to withdraw her novel from Talina’s “Sassy’s Fangirl Debuts” event. This was part of the response my friend received from Talina, including some accusations against my character for good measure.

“…A few bad apples tends to spoil the barrel. That’s a saying my mother taught me. If you’ve been a part of the YA blogging community for any time you’ll understand when I say that it comes with a negative side of envy, jealousy and hate. I try not to let it bother me and I pay 100% of no attention to anyone that thinks I copy them. Why? Because I have nothing to prove…(I) have no time to worry about the negative people trying to throw boulder in my path.”

Well, there you have it, I guess. I’m a ‘bad apple’ who is spoiling the barrel. I’m mean. I’m negative. And, apparently, I’m just jealous. Of what, I have no idea. Statistically-speaking, Pop! Goes The Reader has twice the number of Twitter and Bloglovin’ followers when compared to Sassy and Dangerous but apparently this all comes down to my ‘envy, jealousy, and hate’. Nothing to see here, folks! Just a blogger who has nothing better to do than spend her time picking fights with another blogger and spending hours compiling evidence and writing a post about it. It’s not as though I would rather spend my time doing literally anything else, right?

Believe it or not, Talina, I’m not negative. I’m not mean (well, most of the time, anyway). I’m not jealous. What I am is tired. Tired of being put in this awful position. Tired of keeping this all to myself. Tired of suffering in silence while you take credit for my work. Tired of listening to denials, qualifications, arguments about intent and coincidence.

No amount of ARCS, pageviews, posts, deadlines, commitments, or notoriety excuse plagiarism. Plagiarism is deliberate, plagiarism is intentional and plagiarism is hurtful, both to those from whom you’ve stolen and to yourself. In an online community which is defined by its diversity and inclusivity, you do not need to steal another’s words or mimic another’s voice in order to be heard. There is room for all of us at the table, but only if we have the courage to be ourselves.

29 responses to ““One Bad Apple” – How My Words Are No Longer Mine Alone”

  1. Shannelle says:

    I don’t know what to say. All I can offer is a hug and an open Twitter or email to chat, if you feel like it, even though you don’t really know me. I hope you have a fabulous Christmas despite all this.
    Shannelle recently posted…A Good Blog Theme Leaves A Good ImpressionMy Profile

  2. K.K. says:

    I am not condoning plagiarism, but based on the email responses you have received, I wonder if English is not Talina’s second language? As someone who must often write emails and other correspondence in her own second language, I wonder if this is an attempt to imitate native speakers, to find “accepted phrases” which will resound as natural to English speakers, and not as an attempt to plagiarise that which makes your blog unique. It can be difficult to distinguish between phrases which are often repeated in general (such as “Thank you so much for taking the time to XXX” or “Imagine my surprise when XXX!” — things that are commonly used by MANY speakers of a language, and not one person in particular), and phrases which are particular to a particular author or blog. I wonder if this is not so much an conscious attempt to copy YOU as it is an attempt to find a phrase which is natural and familiar to native speakers?

    This is not to say that this is OK… but I do wonder, again, based on the small but distinctive errors in the email samples you’ve given, how much of this may be a simple failure to understand the difference between commonly used English phrases, and your personal style.

  3. I am so sorry this happened to you. It is inexcusable and thank you for sharing. I will now eagle eye her blog to see if any of my words or co-bloggers’ words are there.

  4. Ugh, I am so sorry that you’ve had to go through this. As a fellow blogger and publicist, I am offended by her actions. There is no excuse to steal another’s words in this way.

  5. Jen,

    I am SO sorry that this happened to you. It is completely unfair for Talina to steal your hard work this way. I also want to thank you for going public with this. I have withdrawn my participation from the SFD program and I will no longer interact with her on a personal level.

  6. I am so sorry that has happened to you. This isn’t the first incident I’ve seen with her.

    I have already gone and withdrawn from her Debut project as I don’t like supporting people like this. She has previously given me bad feelings. But I didn’t put it to much thought because I thought she was very friendly. This is just the last straw. I don’t like drama. And I have never liked plagiarists 😐

  7. MC says:

    I wish I had stumbled upon your blog under better circumstances, but this post is what brought me here today. I’ve read a bunch of your older posts and you are a great writer with a unique voice. I’m so sorry this happened to you. It’s such an awful situation. But from what I can tell, it seems like you have the support of a ton of really wonderful bloggers who want to see this fixed.
    MC recently posted…Make Me Read It Episode 1 | Tamara @ Tamaraniac: Alcatraz vs. the Evil LibrariansMy Profile

  8. Ugh, that is a rough situation, particularly given her attempts to hide what is clearly lifted and edited text. I hope that all book bloggers are working to create original and valuable content – that’s the only way we can stay a community that is positive and engaging.
    Whitney @ Imaginary Book Club recently posted…BINGE-ing on Tyler OakleyMy Profile

  9. Meg says:

    So sorry you’re dealing with this — it is insanely frustrating and hurtful. For what it’s worth, you’re clearly a thoughtful and talented writer . . . hope this situation is resolved soon.
    Meg recently posted…Off with the news, on with the treeMy Profile

  10. Holly says:

    That’s something we are all faced with – plagiarizing thieves. Take small consolation when you read her words. She can’t even construct a proper sentence. Another proof that what she writes is not her own.

  11. This is unacceptable, and I am sorry this happened to you. I have been back in the blogging community for about two weeks, and I have enjoyed reading your blog every single day. All of your posts and your words are unique and creative. This whole situation really sucks, but I know you won’t let it bring you down. The book blogging community is a great one, despite the few who try to soil it, and we’re all here to support you. The evidence speaks for itself. I really hope all of this gets resolved soon, so you don’t have to deal with it weighing on you any longer.
    Lefty @ The Left-Handed Book Lover recently posted…Lefty’s Lowdown: The Trouble with Destiny by Lauren MorrillMy Profile

  12. You already know this. But I’m so proud of you for posting this and following through on a stressful, appalling and frustrating situation that wasn’t getting better. You took action. And reading these comments, it sounds like actions are now being taken in response. I knew you would get support, but I didn’t realize just how many people knew about this person and tried to stop it already – and needed your post to come forward. I’m so glad it’s working. I’m so glad that you wrote this for yourself, and for all of us. Thanks for taking a stand.

    Also, you know I’m here for you whenever you need me. Anytime. =)
    Tiff @ Mostly YA Lit recently posted…Waiting on Wednesday: You Know Me Well by Nina Lacour & David LevithanMy Profile

  13. Jana says:

    So sorry that you have to go through this Jenn. I adore your blog, the look and the content. Keep up the good work!
    Jana recently posted…Added to the List #19My Profile

  14. Sorry to hear this happened to you. I was plagiarized during the Samantha Reed case, and having my words copied was indeed an unexpectedly horrible feeling.

    The downside is that I don’t know what the blogging community can do, especially if people refuse to be publicly shamed into quietly leaving. Reed, for instance, is still blogging and is apparently relatively popular with people who don’t know or don’t care how much she plagiarized.
    Briana @ Pages Unbound recently posted…End of the Year SurveyMy Profile

  15. Sophie says:

    I find the fact that someone could steal someone else’s hard work reprehensible, and I applaud you on how well, and how dignified you reacted with the situation. I’m really sorry it happened to the you!
    Sophie recently posted…Review: Jesse’s Girl (Hundred Oaks #6) by Miranda KenneallyMy Profile

  16. Kristin says:

    I’m so sorry you had to go through this Jen<3 I cannot even imagine how stressful it must've been, especially at the height of when you discovered her plagiarism. It makes no sense for someone to apologize for the similarities and then completely change their attitude when they're caught again. I'm glad you have a strong support system of friends and fellow bloggers to help you through this. I just can't fathom why someone would want to share ideas that aren't naturally their own. It seems like a waste of time. I love your unique voice and I'm glad you've been posting and haven't let this situation discourage you! And it's really brave of you to speak out publicly because no one else should have to deal with this either.
    Kristin recently posted…‘Tis the Season: Disney Ornament Wish ListMy Profile

  17. I’m sorry that this has happened to you, I have been plagiarised before and you just get that sickening feeling of not knowing whether it was a coincidence. I hope you get it resolved soon, thanks for having the courage to speak out.
    Jeann @ Happy Indulgence recently posted…The Cracks in the Kingdom by Jaclyn Moriarty Review: As to a thunderstorm in a dragon’s tailMy Profile

  18. Denise says:

    Jenn sorry that you are going through this but thank you for being brave enough to speak out on this and to name who is plagiarizing you.
    Denise recently posted…Book Review β†’ Cast in ShadowMy Profile

  19. Alexia says:

    Jen, I am so sorry this happened to you, and I applaud you so much for trying to handle it quietly at first. I don’t think I could have done that. I’m glad you made the decision to stand up for yourself & other bloggers who may have already been victims, but just don’t know it yet.
    Alexia recently posted…Playing With Format, Perspective, and VoiceMy Profile

  20. this is awful on so many levels, and i’m so sorry it happened to you – it shouldn’t happen to ANYONE. but unfortunately, you’re too terrific that people have to go out and copy your work. (i guess that’s a positive way to look at it?) what appalls me is her reponses to your emails. perhaps since you said you had no intention of publicly shaming her that she had no fear of continuing to steal from you, even after you confronted her. but i’m glad she did that in the end or else none of use would know of this; she could’ve been scamming more bloggers and we wouldn’t even know. thank you for sharing, and again i’m sorry this happened :((
    alexandra @ twirlingpages recently posted…#TBTBSANTA 2015My Profile

  21. Maggie says:

    F-ing wow! I am so sorry this happened to you! You are an amazing writer, I must say, and can see why someone dishonest would steal your work. Thank you for your post and for being brave enough to post everything you have compiled in addition to your feelings. I don’t want to be hateful, but maybe Talina will spot THIS post and just delete her own blog or at LEAST completely change, which I think is highly unlikely. I’m sorry again and I’m proud of you for using your voice! πŸ˜€
    Maggie recently posted…A Year-Long Giveaway!My Profile

  22. Faith says:

    I’m so sorry to hear this happened to you πŸ™ I’ve been hearing of other incidents that involved Talina and this continues to prove that she’s doing so many things wrong. Plagiarism is horrible and it shouldn’t happen to anyone (especially in such a welcoming community like this) I hope you’re doing okay now. Just continue to be fabulous πŸ™‚
    Faith recently posted…Waiting on WednesdayMy Profile

  23. Jennilyn V. says:

    Saddened to read this. I know how hard it is to call the attention of someone’s misdeed alone because you want to do the right thing and hear the offender’s side first. But now I’m sure the community will back you up with this,
    Jennilyn V. recently posted…Stacking the Shelves (STS #4)My Profile

  24. I’m so terribly sorry to hear this has happened to you, Jen. Plagiarism is such a despicable, unforgivable act. I always felt something about Talina was fishy and hearing incidents of her plagiarizing off others sadly confirms that. Continue being your fabulous self and much love. <3
    Peach @ Rebelle Reads recently posted…Review: BlackheartsMy Profile

  25. *hugs* Jen! I don’t understand people who feel the need to plagiarize. And it seems it would take longer to paraphrase someone else’s words rather than just coming up with your own πŸ™
    So sorry you’ve had to go through this, Jen! I hope the plagiarism will cease.
    Lexxie @ (un)Conventional Bookviews recently posted…Review: Heartbreaker’s Bet – Donna CummingsMy Profile

  26. Sparrow says:

    Jen, I have a sense of letdown after reading this article. Sorry, that you faced with this issue… Hope, you understand that it’s a sign of your recognition as a prominent writer (hope, this will cheer you up)

    By the way, I see at your screenshots yellow mask which shows similarities parts… Have you used special plagiarism checker to reveal it or did it by your own?

    Personally, I use Unplag, it helps me to find out my writing on other resources (if it published somewhere online). Besides, if you faced with blatant plagiarism, you always have an option to
    complain to Google (and the website of wrongdoer could be excluded from the search results once and for all)

  27. I don’t condone plagiarisn, but I guess I don’t see this as outright copying. Some words are the same, but you could read 10 different book blogs and see similair writing styles. The sentences are structured differently, although getting to the same point.You each are talking of different books in the highlighted passages, so it’s hard to say for certain if she is plagiarizing. My suspicion is that she was doing so, but is using the’s differences as a shield to stand behind. I’m sorry you feel your work was stolen, it’s a crap thing to have to experience and I hope she really takes a look at her actions and stops.

  28. I’m sorry you had to go through this. It’s disheartening how someone would resort to such action. Have you thought of using a plagiarism checker? Anyway, I’d like to share something I wrote months ago on plagiarism. Hope this helps. https://www.chatebooks.com/blog-how-to-avoid-plagiarism-when-writing-a-book

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

CommentLuv badge