Friday, May 12, 2006

For Mom

I think it was an hour before my wedding when I heard my mom's distinctly say, "Stop right there!" My maid of honor and I instinctively froze and then realized she wasn't talking to us. When I came back from my honeymoon, mom told me how an angry step parent tried to confront me about a corsage. Mom, who is a strapping 5'3" and maybe 120 pounds soaking wet, had thrown herself in the path of the snorting brute, determined that my day would not be ruined.

There were so many times when mom threw herself in front of me: she single-handedly cowed my elementary school principal, confronted the violent, alcoholic mother of a girl who threatened to beat me up and don't get me started on what she threatens to do to the people who post negative reviews of my books on

Before I became a mom I didn't know where she had the guts to do all that. (Me? I used to run from confrontation.) But when I held my son in my arms for the first time, a surge of love and protectiveness lit through me. I knew what it felt like to love someone more than myself and why my mom seemed to possess the strength of ten angry Mexican women when someone threatened her cubs.

The greatest gift my mom has ever given me was the day she went home after my son was born. Hormones had me crying with a fear I had never known and I knew I was the worst mother ever. But she wrapped me in her arms and said, "You're such a good mother." When the best tells you that you're the best too, you feel like you can go on and do the impossible like protect your cub and battle his dragons. And you hope that when that little cub grows up into a papa or mama bear, he or she will do the same.

Thanks mom.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Bathroom Epiphanies and Sangria

I was in the ladies' room at Diedrich's yesterday when I had a breakthrough on the new story I'm writing. Don't you love it when that happens? It's almost as if the universe cuts you some slack. When I ran back to my table to write the scene, I couldn't help but wonder why my characters always (a) make out or (b) do it so early on in the story. Hmm...

I donated a critique and a signed copy of In Between Men to the This fund was set up to help a fellow writer who was diagnosed with breast cancer in February. If you want to bid, this magic link will take you there.

Also, I'm this month's featured author at Come on over and say hi if you're at work and the boss is out on a two-hour lunch. Oh and I just discovered Sacha Boutros. Her music is best described as Latin lounge jazz. Very hip, very cool and yet sensuous like sipping sangria at sunset.

That's all I've got today. I'm this close to finishing act I of my latest WIP in case my agent and editor are spying on me!

Love ya, Mary

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

How She Got Caught, Got Dissed and Lost Her Movie Deal

I usually don't do this sort of thing but I have to say something about KaavyaViswanathan and her alleged photographic memory that has been making the news.

Let's take a ride in the way back machine to 1997 when Nora Roberts sued fellow author, Janet Dailey for copyright infringement. Dailey allegedly plagiarized 13 of Nora's books. By the way, Dailey has published novels since then and she claimed that severe emotional distress was the cause of her eh, faux pas. Articles about the scandal can be read here and here.

Anyway, it seemed that the only people who took the issue seriously were Nora and romance writers. One news writer referred to the sordid affair as a mere bodice-ripping cat fight and a reader claimed that one romance novel was no different than the other.

Fast forward to "How Opal Mehta Got Kissed, Got Wild, and Got a Life" and its similarities to Megan McCafferty's novel (and didja hear that there are claims that Viswanathan "may have internalized" passages from Sophie Kinsella's "Can Your Keep A Secret? The AP story is here). Now it seems that everyone understands that plagiarism isn't just a crime against the writer, it's also defrauding the reader. Less than a week after the first claims of plagiarism were made, Viswanathan's book was pulled from book shelves by her publisher and her movie deal has been reportedly nixed.

As an author who has put my heart and soul into every page of my books, I am so happy that publishers, readers, my fellow writers and the media are taking plagiarism seriously. And I believe we have Oprah and James Frey to thank for the more responsible handling of the Viswanathan scandal by her publisher, Little, Brown and Co. When Oprah made Frey take responsibility for his not-so-honest memoir (and humiliated his cell-phone packing publisher on national TV), it has made us stop and think about the importance of the written word. There is an unspoken agreement between author and reader that the book, fictional or non-fictional, are expected to come from a place of truth and originality ... not his or her photographic memory.

UPDATE: This just in from today's PW Daily

No Encore for 'Opal'
By Rachel Deahl

Readers who have a copy of Kaavya Viswanathan's How Opal Mehta Got Kissed, Got Wild and Got a Life may want to hold on to it, as the book is now a collector's item. In a statement issued from Little, Brown, the publisher finally said that it will not be releasing a revised edition of the book. And Viswanathan's second book in that two-title deal she signed with LB is dead too. The brief announcement came this afternoon from LB's senior v-p and publisher, Michael Pietsch.

While LB would not comment on what this means for the highly publicized $500,000 advance the young author received, agent Robert Gottlieb told PW that it's certainly possible the imprint could request that the money be returned. Explaining that every author signs a contract stipulating that the work they're submitting is wholly their own, Gottlieb said in cases of plagiarism an author is always breaking this legal agreement. "Technically the author is in breach of her contract," Gottlieb said, referring to Viswanathan's plagiarism. "If the publisher decided that they wanted to demand the advance back, they could."

Though Little, Brown could sue Viswanathan—for losses it has incurred in publicizing, printing and distributing the book—Gottlieb believes that this is unlikely. "I've always recommended to publishers that they avoid suing authors, because it just doesn't look good," he said. He then added: "We all do live in a community." That we do, and it seems that Kaavya Viswanathan has officially been kicked out.