Damage Control 101: The Fine Art of Covering Your A**

So there’s a reason for this post, and thankfully at the moment, it’s not because I made and a** of myself (or at least I don’t think I have, yet). Pardon the language, but sometimes there is no better way to capture a predicament than with terms we actually use in everyday life.

Not to beat the proverbial dead horse even more, but after witnessing the way The Story Siren (TSS) blogger handled the entire plagiarism scandal she invoked, and being alerted to her week-long series of guest-posts on plagiarism and seeing the reactions, I felt compelled to dredge this all up one last time. Then I got a pingback on one of my posts that lead me to No, plagiarism doesn’t just “happen,” and after reading it and many of the comments on TSS, I thought there were a lot of astute suggestions about how to get yourself off the hot seat without fanning the fire.

My point is not to assail Kristi—I haven’t lost a moment’s sleep about all that. She looks like she’s trying hard to rectify this, even if her approach has been sloppy and fraught with errors, by her own admission. That’s actually my point: the errors after-the-fact. We can all learn from them.

Know the background for this post? Skip to CYA.

If you have no idea what I’m talking about, most of the salient details and links can be found in my post, Now it’s MY turn for a “clarification”. Then yesterday, book bloggers tweeted about Kristi Diehm’s audacity in posting about plagiarism on TSS.

Readers of TSS were left scratching their heads once again, for many reasons:

  • They couldn’t believe she’d bring up the topic again after it had just died down from early April, when they were already perplexed by her nebulous posts and apologies.
  • Many were floored that a plagiarist would have the gumption to post about plagiarism—even if they’re guest posts—especially after she deleted her own rant about plagiarism from months ago when the you-know-what hit the fan.
  • The first post on plagiarism (on May 21, 2012) featuring Sarah Cross dropped with no introductory comments or any explanation for those who do know what happened last month. Kristi claimed it was a blog scheduling glitch—or that’s what she called it. (I’ve never had problems with my scheduled posts, but anyway).
  • Then Kristi backdated the “intro” post and published it after the Sarah Cross post dropped, and oy vey, did the comments section explode. The intro post came a little too late and people are still not happy with the I don’t know how it happened rhetoric. I get that. But moving on.


CYA. Do it. Always.

Ah, CYA. A favorite term of my particular branch of Corporate America, where everything is turned into an acronym (or to be pedantic about it, an initialism in this case).

CYA = Cover Your A** and is used as both noun and verb, FYI. (Couldn’t resist. ;)) That’s the point of saved email threads, PDFs and documentation, checks and balances, archives and the lot. You do it all to CYA.

CYA-related actions are generally thought of as preventative measures that are rarely actually needed, but sometimes, as in the case referenced above, you need CYA of the damage control type. And let’s face it, outside Corporate America, with the Tiger Woodses, John Edwardses, and Bill Clintons of the world—damage control is more often the case. A CYAA, or Cover Your A** After, if you will.

So when you don’t have a PR person to buffer you from your stupidity and someone else’s cognizance of it, what do you do? Should you ever find yourself in the middle of a brouhaha that you caused, here are some tips to help dig yourself out—and maybe even come out smelling better than you did going in.

To illustrate the fallout connected with not employing the tips below, I’ve included comments that originally appeared on TSS posts related to the topic, but without links back to that blog, for obvious reasons.

CYA Without Digging a Deeper Hole

UPDATE: May 24, 2012: Related reading: The Art of the (Non) Apology, posted May 23, 2012 by Beautifully Invisible.

1. OWN IT.
You did it. Or someone you manage did it. There is no way around it the truth. Accept this fact and and talk to a therapist if you feel suicidal or depressed. I’m not joking, people. Everyone has a different threshold for confrontation and guilt. If you can’t manage on your own, get help.

“Nobody likes to take accountability, but true leaders will, and true leaders do. That is what separates a strong person from a weak one, what separates a champion from a chump.

You’ve yet to do it.”

Comment by Shiloh Walker on TSS | 5.22.2012

“For four months, she mined the material from other bloggers and posted the ideas and slightly modified content as her own. This is different from a one-time mistake or error in judgment. This is deliberate. Own up, Kristi. Own up. And followers, think with your brains instead of your misguided hearts.”

Comment by Dawn on TSS | 4.24.2012

2. Apologize directly to the injured party and ask how to make amends immediately.
Don’t wait til you’re busted, don’t delay hoping it won’t be noticed, because if you noticed, someone else will too. Out yourself, in other words. It might make you feel like crap, but it will buy you points in the integrity and honesty departments. And then you’ve got no skeletons in your closet.

“…what rubs me the wrong way was how the situation was handled. Not only is this apology about three months late, but I can’t help questioning the motives behind it and if it was only written because she was exposed.

‘it seems that all of that work may have been lost in this mistake.’ That sounded like she was more worried about losing her long-established reputation than standing up for plagiarism or acknowledging her mistakes.

‘To Grit and Glamour and Beautifully Invisible, I extend my deepest apologies. Please do not judge the book blogging community by my mistakes.’

All of a sudden the original victims turned into vicious monsters who hate the entire book blogging community. I’m starting to feel very sorry for the other party.”

Comment by Lilian on TSS | 4.25.2012

3. Apologize sincerely, and offer no excuses unless there is a truly legitimate one.
What does that mean? In the case of plagiarism, which is never, ever accidental, it’s this: I’m sorry. I took your work and passed it off as my own. I’m guilty of plagiarism. I accept full responsibility for the consequences of my actions. Full. Stop. If there is a legitimate reason, then it’s something more like this: I’m sorry. My employee took your work and passed it off as ours, and I did not do the proper due diligence to prevent it. But we are guilty of plagiarism, nonetheless. My carelessness is the reason why this happened and I accept full responsibility and any consequences.

“So will you be explaining this week how [plagiarism] was ‘tricky’? Because I fail to see it explained here.”

Comment by Phillip Weiss on TSS | 5.21.2012

“I commend you for trying to fix your mistakes, but what really irks me the most is when you say that everyone has walked the plagairism line at one point in their lives. How do you know that? You aren’t everyone. And does that sentence help justify what you did?”

Comment by Felicia on TSS | 5.21.2012

4. If your infraction is now public and there’s major fallout, do not respond hastily. But respond.
Try not to delay any longer than necessary, but take the time you need to craft a measured, adult response. This is important for a few reasons:

A) You need to let your head clear so you don’t send off an emotionally-charged or defensive response.

B) It gives you the opportunity to address what people are writing/saying about the issue, as well as issue an apology.

C) It shows that you accept responsibility and you’re not just pretending it didn’t happen, which adds insult to injury.

Case in point:

“Let’s try this again. I owe all of you, the blogging community and my readers a much better explanation and apology. My first apology was written out of emotion. I should have given myself the time to reflect before responding. I didn’t do that and I tend to let my emotions rule.”

Kristi Diehm in her post, Clarification, on TSS | 4.24.2012

5. Have someone—a mentor, friend in the industry, or an attorney—review your response before releasing it.
This is critical. If you leave something out of your response—like a sincere apology to the injured party with no excuses, or how you plan to make amends—it makes the situation even worse. People are actually quite forgiving, unless you act like you’re the victim instead of the other way around. Get someone else to read your post, email, or letter to ensure it comes across coherent, remorseful, and respectful, and without spelling mistakes or grammatical errors. Nothing worse than attempting to fix something and further damaging your credibility in the process.

6. Posting an apology/response on a blog? DO NOT turn off the comment functionality, and be very careful with comment moderation.
This will incite even more anger against you because it makes you look like you don’t want to accept responsibility or hear the truth. If you’ve always allowed comments, now is not the time to stop. It not only silences the people who are mad, but the people who might want to support you too. Plus, if you take away the ability to comment on your post, people will simply take to Twitter or your Facebook page to share their thoughts. Since you screwed up, you need to hear the feedback anyway. While some comments sting and are downright mean, for every one of those, there are three that are logical, or have ideas about how to make the situation better.

“I’m probably wasting my time posting this… either it will get deleted, or it won’t get through. Although I do plan on reposting my comments to my blog, so hey…My question would be this…are you going to keep comments unmoderated & undeleted…because there’s no denying you deleted comments. I’m screencapping this and I’ll post it to my blog.”

Comment by Shiloh Walker on TSS | 5.21.2012

UPDATE: May 22,2012: The following addendum about comment moderation was suggested by AztecLady in the comments below, and I think she makes several strong points, so I wanted to call attention to it here: “If you moderate comments and then reply to same, make sure to reply to all of them–or at least address all the issues raised in another post. Replying only to people making innocuous comments not related to your previous dishonesty, while continuing to maintain radio silence over those hard questions, is not advisable. Everyone knows that, since moderated comments are approved manually, one by one, you couldn’t have possibly missed the many questions directed specifically at you, over your own actions–past and present.”

7. If you see followers or friends bullying or maligning the victims, NIP IT IN THE BUD ASAP.
Everyone one likes to have support, but an army of rabid sycophants who blame/harass/email/bully the victims for calling you out is wrong and just makes a bad situation worse. Ignoring bullying comments or tweets essentially means you are condoning bullying. Clearly, you can’t respond to every one. But you can issue a statement that the victims are not to be blamed or insulted because you got caught with your hand in the cookie jar.

“Are you ever going to tell your followers and fans that attacking the victims while trying to support you is even lower than your own despicable actions?”

Comment by AZTECLADY on TSS | 5.21.2012

“What I have NOT seen here is the level of vitriol aimed towards Kristi (the plagiarist) that was hurled at Grit and Glamour and Beautifully Invisible (the victims). I also have not seen Kristi take a stand against that sort of behavior or to condemn it in any way. In the eyes of the law, silence equals consent, and her silence on this matter is considered (by me) to be tacit approval to that sort of behavior. I find that as reprehensible and irresponsible as her original act of theft.”

Comment by Lynda the Guppy on TSS | 5.21.2012

“…while your loyal followers attack those who spoke out, and you sit silently by, you give silent permission to bully and harass. In case you weren’t aware…yes, there were attacks. Bullying emails sent to a number of the bloggers who spoke out.”

Comment by Shiloh Walker on TSS | 5.22.2012

8. Thinking of having a guest post about the subject at the core of your transgression? Tread carefully. And if you do, note that at the beginning of your post, not the end.
Using the situation to preach about how not to make the mistake you made is probably not advisable. Clearly, it did not work for you. It comes off as opportunistic and (as I said on Twitter recently), like a parent who smokes telling their child not to smoke. Unless of course, you ask the people you harmed to share their experience on your blog, as these commenters suggested:

“What I want to know is whether you included the people you plagiarized from in this week-long educational exercise? If you really want to discuss the ins/outs of plagiarism and educate your readers it would only make sense that they would be included.

I hope we’ll see some input from them on this blog. If so I think you’re on the right track and might actually be on the path to ‘blogging salvation.'”

Comment by Lauren on TSS | 5.21.2012

“Will you be having the people you plagiarized from on your ‘plagiarism week’? Wonder what they think of how you seem to be using your actions as a way to get more attention?

I, along with everyone else who used to look up to you as one of the most prominent YA book blogs, am still waiting for a heartfelt apology.”

Comment by Kelli on TSS | 5.21.2012

“I believe it’s a good idea to invite the two fashion bloggers you plagiarized from to have their say about it, here in your blog.”

Comment by Citra on TSS | 5.21.2012

If you go there, since your blog is always in your voice, if you don’t make it very clear at the top of the post that it’s someone else, it is confusing and sets the wrong precedent. Every guest post should have an intro stating that. A bio or contact info for the guest goes at the end.

9. If you’ve scheduled posts about the issue, double-check dates and times so nothing is released out of order.
Again, your credibility is at stake. If a post drops and no one knows why, or you don’t explain it, it just makes you look even more stupid. And brings on more (likely unwanted) comments.

“sorry about the confusion… there was supposed to be an introduction post before this and of course it didn’t go up as planned, this has nothing to do with imm. i have an eleven hour work day today and just noticed on my lunch that the first post didnt make it up, otherwise I would have corrected that much earlier. this is simply an education discussion on plagiarism for myself and anyone else who is interested.”

Comment by Kristi Diehm (TSS blog owner) on TSS | 5.21.2012


“You posted this AFTER the author guest post but formatted the time so it looked like you posted this first. Not cool. There was no explanation in the guest author post, leaving her to take the brunt of the comments of WTF. Again, not cool.”

Comment by Wicked Little Pixie on TSS | 5.21.2012

10. Remember that honesty is always the best policy.
When you are faced with telling the awful truth about a situation, choose the truth. No skeletons, right? The Internet lives forever, and that is no joke. You will not pull the wool over anyone’s eyes but your own. Even Kristi couldn’t erase the fact that she was very aware of the concept of plagiarism before she did it. When she deleted an older post on her blog in which she preached against plagiarism, people dug it up, courtesy of modern technology:

“Funny, I just happened to be on the Google Way Back site today and look what I came across, a post written by Kristi talking about bloggers plagiarizing. Let me quote just a bit of it for you.

‘Plagiarism is wrong. No matter how you look at it.

There is no excuse… “I didn’t know…. I didn’t mean to… I did it subconsciously.” No, you didn’t. You did know and you did mean to.

Plagiarism isn’t just copying and pasting word for word and passing it off as your own. It can be taking someones work and changing around the sentence structure, getting out your thesaurus and changing a few words here and there… basically taking the central idea tweaking it and passing it off as your own work.

It’s especially frustrating for this to happen in the blogging community.’


Oh, the irony.”

Comment by Holly on TSS | 4.27.2012

Yes, kids, honesty—not irony—is indeed the best policy when you’ve got egg on your face.


    1. Well hello there, AztecLady!

      I appreciate your kind words. Sorry to meet under these circumstances, but thanks for visiting, and for your comment on TSS in our defense!

      1. Thank you for your eloquent posts on the topic–both of you–back in January and then again last month, and definitely this masterpiece.

        Forgive my cheek, please, when I offer you a small addendum to the comment moderation policy bit:

        If you moderate comments and then reply to same, make sure to reply to all of them–or at least address all the issues raised in another post. Replying only to people making innocuous comments not related to your previous dishonesty, while continuing to maintain radio silence over those hard questions, is not advisable. Everyone knows that, since moderated comments are approved manually, one by one, you couldn’t have possibly missed the many questions directed specifically at you, over your own actions–past and present.

    1. Hi Kelli, thank you! That’s one of the reasons why Kristi’s excuses have been so galling. I’m a professional writer, and I know good and damn well what plagiarism is after a B.A. in English, and M.A. in English, and 14 years working in writing and communications!

  1. I’m sorry this mess happened to you… plagiarism sucks and it sucks hard. I don’t know if people who haven’t been there can fully comprehend what it’s like to have your own work stolen from you, but it’s like stripping part of your identity away. It’s hard to put it into words, completely, but that’s the only way I can think to describe it.

    And she just can’t comprehend it.

    A real, unvarnished apology would have made a difference to me when it happened to me. It doesn’t undo it, but it would have meant something.

    I don’t know why it’s so hard for some people to suck it up and do the right thing anymore. You wrong somebody, you apologize to THAT person…and make it right with them. You don’t try to make yourself look better, you make it right with the person you wronged.

    Karma…reap what you sow. Whatever. It will come around sooner or later.

    1. Hi Shiloh, thanks for your comment! I agree about karma…that’s why it’s my compass for everything.

  2. I am sorry both of you have to deal with this mess. I am speechless because I actually cannot imagine myself in your position. People say what doesn’t kill you make you stronger. I just want to say that these things, no matter how bad they are, will not hurt your credibility, at all.

    You guys gritandglamour and beautifullyinvisible and great bloggers!

  3. You and B have handled this situation with unparalleled class. I don’t know if I could’ve done the same!

    Great post, great advice, great everything!

  4. Dropping in to clear up a couple of misconceptions.

    “I commend you for trying to fix your mistakes, but what really irks me the most is when you say that everyone has walked the plagairism line at one point in their lives. How do you know that? You aren’t everyone. And does that sentence help justify what you did?”

    “Using the situation to preach about how not to make the mistake you made is probably not advisable. Clearly, it did not work for you. It comes off as opportunistic and (as I said on Twitter recently), like a parent who smokes telling their child not to smoke. ”

    First, Kristi did not say, “everyone has walked the plagairism line at one point in their lives”, an author who contacted her did.

    Second, the idea of guest blogs on plagiarism was suggested to Kristi by that same author. She realized the impact Kristi has on young people and thought an “opportunity” existed – not for Kristi to win back followers or save face – but to educate the thousands upon thousands of people who either don’t understand what plagiarism is, or do not understand the myriad ways that it is wrong.

    Kristi bravely agreed to the idea and followed through because she was trying to take “something negative (like this whole experience!) and turn(ing) it into something positive” — just like your friend Beautifully Invisible is suggesting you’ve done with this post.

    I know this because I am the author who suggested it.

    I am not trying to make light of what happened to you, or of plagiarism in its whole. And I am certainly not suggesting that Ms. Diehm handled this perfectly, or even well. But I am proud of my part in what she’s doing this week. I’m proud of her for having the guts to do it. And I think if you have a chance to read through ALL of the comments, not just the negative ones, you’ll see that it really is making a difference. People are talking. People are listening. People are learning. And maybe people won’t be plagiarizing quite so much in the future.

    You own a part of that, y’know? As awful and ugly as the whole thing has been, something good IS coming out of it. And the good got started when two bloggers said No, we won’t stand for this. Kudos to you for doing that.

    BTW, nice blog!

    1. Thanks, Darcy, but with all due respect, if Kristy had had the “guts” you claim she has, she would have emailed us personally after the s*** hit the fan (she NEVER contacted us after we initially busted her), and actually LINKED back to our blogs in her apologies, so people would know what the hell she was talking about. She didn’t even send a tweet to tell us her apology was up. She just posted an “apology” on her site that we’d see if we HAPPENED to come across it. Which we only did because the book bloggers told us about it.

      I agree the conversation has been enlightening for many, but I personally would not want to be associated with a book blogger who talks in doublespeak and is as unprofessional as she is. It comes through in her grammatically incorrect comments, in her I did it/didn’t do it waffling, in her posts that are published out of order, in her lack of judgment in featuring guests on the subject when the fire hasn’t yet gone out. Obviously, there are people who will defend her and stick by her no matter what she does, because they know her reach, as undeserved as it is, and they love the freebies.

      They say you are who you hang around. As a published writer myself, I wouldn’t want that on me.

      1. Yes, that is exactly how I feel! If I hadn’t already read your posts on the matter, I would have been clueless after reading her ‘apology’. She has always talked in doublespeak, it makes her blog hard to read. Honestly, I think she is going for page hits and trying to manipulate people. She has actually tried to make herself out to be a victim! If I ever find out exactly who the authors are who are defending her, I will make a point to not read them again. Her reach, while undeserved, is exactly what is keeping people from speaking out against her. It makes me sick!

      2. Fair enough.
        While I do not admire what Kristi did to start this whole thing, nor (especially after reading your explanation) can I congratulate her on the way she’s handled it, now that it’s happened I still think the greater good is to reach out to all those teen readers, young adult bloggers and (yikes!) interested adults who are: A. Not as professional as you and B. Not as well informed — and teach them what plagiarism is, why it’s bad and how to avoid it. I really do wish she would have invited you to take part in this, if only for you to offer a concrete example of how stealing content is stealing money (via ad revenues).

        P.S. I hope to be judged by who I am and what I do, not who I hang with 😉

        1. Darcy, I agree. And I’m actually not a judgmental person. Or at least I try to evaluate the intent and action of individuals before I decide where they belong in the boxes in my head. You seem level-headed and calm, and I appreciate that. It’s unfortunate that in coming to Kristi’s aid, you will likely experience some repercussions. All the people who have been closely involved in this debacle have.

          But thanks for taking the time to comment. I do appreciate it.

    2. Darcy… I hope you don’t take this personally, because I’m not trying to be ugly or anything, but if Kristi really wanted to open up a discussion, she’d have to do it equally. She’d have to face her accusers…and she did wrong. She can’t open up her blog to ‘discuss plagiarism’ and then moderate and delete most of the opinions that don’t agree with her own. And she deleted many.

      She has to see, and acknowledge and confront those negative opinions. If she doesn’t, she’s sidestepping the issue. She’s hiding.

      I understand that not everybody handles confrontation well, but if she didn’t want to face the confrontation, this is a can of worms she never should have open. It only made it worse.

      She also hasn’t ever apologized directly to those she stole from. Not once. She apologized to her readers… the community… she apologized for being deceptive. But not once to those she stole from not in email, in a tweet, or just wandered over to their blogs.

      Now… I have been plagiarized. I know how badly it sucks. And I’ve had the plagiarizer turn around and play the victim card. Instead of simply apologizing. It was more of the “I didn’t realize it” please, note, that sounds an awful lot like … I don’t know how this happened

      People keep saying… she did apologize… on her blog! twice! That doesn’t mean much. An apology should go to the people she wronged. The bloggers. Directly. It hasn’t happened.

      Another issue is how very, very many of Kristi’s loyal followers have attacked those who spoke out.

      And she stays silent.

      Not ONCE has she posted anything like… hey, guys… while I appreciate the support… they are entitled to be angry, entitled to be disillusioned. Please don’t go after them.

      She lets her followers bully others…and it has been bullying. I received some nasty replies myself… crap like I was doing it just to get popular… (anybody knows me would laugh out loud at this, and I do mean even if they just know me online). I was doing it just to be mean. I’ve *ruined* my reputation and NOBODY will EVER buy my books again.

      And all I did was make a few comments…I never called her names, I never attacked her readership…I made some comments about my experience and my thoughts about how she could have maybe handled this a little better.

      I realize she’s a big fish in the YA book pool. But the book blogging world, and the blogging world in general is a lot bigger than YA. And outside of YA, she’s become known as just a plagiarist. She could have turned things around, but her window to do so shrinking and her approach this week isn’t helping.

      I don’t dislike her. I can’t… I do not know her and before this, I’d never heard of her. So this isn’t a personal thing on my end. But she’s alienating even more people…she had a chance to have an open, frank discussion, but that’s not what she’s doing.

      She’s turning it into… “I don’t know how it happened…maybe this is it…” and she’s showing ways to ‘pass’ or ‘excuse’ the blame. Instead of owning the problem. She’s not owning her mistakes. She’s painting the path that makes it look like… “hey, it’s so easy, anybody could have done the same thing…”

      No. Just…no.

      1. Shiloh,

        I am truly sorry you experienced plagiarism and all that went with it. I understand all of your beefs with Kristi and I respect your right to have them. I have a hard time seeing her the way you do though.

        She is from my area and around the same age as my own children. I could see them making a similar mistake even though I KNOW they’ve been taught about plagiarism ( because I freaked out when my daughter was six and won a writing award at school for what was basically a ‘change the setting and the animals’ retelling of Jan Brett’s The Mitten. lol). If caught up in something like this I hope my kids would act with a little more grace — but I’m not certain they would.

        It’s a very hard thing to admit when you’ve done wrong, probably the hardest part is admitting it to yourself.

        And I hate that people are saying this education week is totally self-serving. It’s not. I know because I’m the one who suggested it. When I contacted Kristi she was scared to death to reopen the topic. Part of her thought she could just leave it in the past but it was really haunting her. And a lot of soul searching went into writing her opener – and is going into putting together a closing piece too.

        She may be playing me but, man, if she is, she is effing good at it.

        Does she owe V and the other blogger a direct and personal apology? Of course she does. I think the sticking point is that everyone is asking her to say she did it intentionally and she doesn’t believe she did. Whether that was always the case or something her ego made up to protect herself, we’ll never really know. The reality is — she believes it now. Besides, anything she says at this point will not be good enough. Even if she fell on her knees and begged for absolution there are many who would still turn a cynical eye and say she’s only doing it because she has run out of choices.

        Finally, a word about choices. I wish with all my heart that all these incredibly bright women (including yourself) who weighed in so negatively this week could have set their anger and righteousness aside and, if not participated in teaching others about plagiarism, at least stayed out of the way so others could learn. Regardless of what anyone thinks of Kristi, plagiarism is our common foe. I realize now how naive that is. I might as well be asking us all to gather around the campfire and sing Kumbaya.

        Still, i can’t help regretting all the good that could have been done.

        Thank you for addressing me with civility and best of luck in your writing career!

        1. Yes… good could have been done, and it’s sad. But she made a mistake in inviting ‘friends’ and people from her circle. There was no balance. Without balance, it’s pointless.

          But the it’s not *our* fault it didn’t happen. You seem to think that our speaking up is the reason no good came of it.

          Perhaps if she’d started the entire discussion off with that apology?

          And I’m *tired* of hearing that nobody likes to admit they were wrong. Of course they don’t. But people don’t like be stolen from, either. You do wrong, you own it. Or you face the consequences.

          Had she started with that real apology, this entire week would have gone a lot differently.

          Yes, I’ve *been* in the position where I’ve screwed up and had to apologize-I kept having people harp at me… “well, I can’t wait until YOU screw up…” Ah…. I do it all the time. I’m human. People make mistakes, and for the most part, if a real apology is offered, many people will actually react with a lot more grace than you might expect. It’s odd how quickly a real apology does help things. Does it fix it? No. But when you’re sorry, and people get that, the atmosphere changes fast.

          I’m not angry with Kristi…you think I am, but I’m not. I’m actually far too lazy to get angry about this. It bothers me, yes. But I get angry about starving children, violence against women…and with my kids, my guy. This doesn’t make me angry. It frustrates me, and that’s a different stack of cards.

          What I feel for Kristi is disrespect…and pity.

          She could have maybe earned my respect back.

          Here’s how simple…and as hard as this…


          Kay Manning is an author who plagiarized a number of other authors. She was caught. Initially she denied it.

          Then, she did something I haven’t seen anybody do, not in the nearly 9 years I’ve been online/writing professionally. She fully owned her mistake, and she apologized. Without exception, without excuses.

          After stealing, after lying about her theft, she stood up and she did the right thing.

          If she makes a come-back and tries to really write her own words later down the road, I’m willing to give her a chance, because she showed me she had owned her mistakes. Doing the right thing can be very hard…but as the saying goes…it’s the right thing to do. And Kay Manning did it. She did it, and earned my respect in the process.

          Without a true apology to the wrong parties, you haven’t owned your mistakes.

          And if you haven’t owned your mistakes, you’re in a bad, bad position to try and educate anybody.

          Kristi has lost the respect of far more people than I think she realizes.

          But no, I’m not angry with her.

          I do pity her. She has done something that has smeared her name forever. The internet doesn’t forget.

          That’s her fault. She could have made steps to fix this over the past week, and one of those ways would have been to start off with that real apology that still hasn’t come.

          You think we should have stayed silent…it’s kind of ironic. Kristi thinks this entire thing should have stayed silent. Swept all those ugly bones back into the closet so nobody saw them.

          Here’s a reason why staying silent wasn’t wise… the entire tone of those posts was this…

          plagiarism is such an easy mistake to make…this is how it happened to me, can’t you stop being angry?

          Now, I get that you all don’t see it.

          You want us to ‘set aside out anger and righteousness’. Perhaps you should set aside your friendship and look at this objectively.

          Take Kristi out of the picture if need be.

          Somebody steals.
          No true apology is given.
          A month goes by and then a series of articles are done.

          posts like ‘plagiarism and inspiration and fanfiction are so easily confused’… no. Plagiarism, taking somebody else’s words and claiming them as your own. Inspiration…building your own story something that inspired you. I’ve got a fairy tale series that was inspired by Buffy the Vampire Slayer and the Brothers Grimm fairy tales. There’s a big difference. Fanfcition… taking characters and a world somebody else created and writing your own story with them, but you don’t claim that world or the stories as your own.

          Post like… ‘these poor students, if they forget to cite even one source, I have to fail them… see how easy it is to screw up?

          I’ve probably missed other interesting slants on this because I’m done with her ‘education’ week.
          And most importantly of all…how silent she has stayed over the attacks. http://smartbitchestrashybooks.com/blog/plagiarism-bingo-o-hatemail

          She’s aware. There’s no way she’s not. It was pointed out to her over twitter. People have mentioned it to her on blog. And she stays silent.

          Can she control the actions of others? No.

          But as somebody in the role of a leader, for her to stay silent is telling. It’s silent permission.

          Before this gets turned around on me…yes, I’ve been in the position where I had others trying to speak on my behalf… it never devolved into ugly attacks, because I stepped in. But if things devolved down into ugly attacks, I’d damn well being record saying, “These people do NOT speak for me.” And I’d also be saying something along the lines of… “Guys…you need to stop.”

          When she doesn’t, the message is that she doesn’t see the problem in the bullying.

          Staying silent would have let that entire message… ‘plagiarism is easy…’ just go as it is, unvarnished.

          Plagiarism, particularly the kind of plagiarism Kristi did, multiple times, from multiple blogs, isn’t an accident. It’s intentional and planned.

          1. I agree with almost everything you’ve said and almost everything left, I at least understand how you got there. Two things: 1. Kristi and I are not friends. While we live within a few miles of each other, I have never met her and do not follow her blog. 2. That I think you should have stayed silent. That one is close, but not quite. I think as many of you who felt the need to speak up should have respectfully said your piece at the beginning of the week — a lot like what you’ve done with me here. Or, if someone in a post said something you disagreed with, call them on it — as several did with my post. I’m fine with that and welcome the discussion. What I felt was hurtful to forwarding any real change in people’s understanding and ideas about plagiarism were the attacks against the posters — accusing us of being pro-plagiarism when clearly none of us are. And the feud-like postings bak and forth with her supporters. That, more than anything, made this week about Kristi and took away from the good this week could have done. And the tweets. Those were just mean.
            I’m on vacation starting tonight. I think I’ll leave my laptop behind this trip and just take a notebook and pencils with me. I’ll soak up the sun, float in the Gulf and try to cleanse myself of all the ickiness of the past few days. Hope you get some downtime too. And regardless of our differences, it is very nice to have met you.

  5. Well, call me ugly, petty and cynical.

    I would lend a bit more credence to your claims, Ms author, if you had a link to your website/blog/whatever. As is…meh.Plus, that sentence you quote, accusing everyone of plagiarizing? Pretty damn insulting.

    And the guest posts so far? Not very educated in what plagiarism is nor on how to explain it to others.

    Plus, until Kristi Diehm actually apologizes to Beautifully Invisible and Grit and Glamour and reins in all her sycophantic hounds with the hatemail, I don’t think she’s brave. I don’t think she’s any kind of decent human being, in fact.

    So at least for one reader, the whole thing reeks of self-serving promo for Kristi Diehm.

    1. I won’t call you ugly, petty and cynical, Ms. Aztec Lady. I will call you a finy bit confusing, however. When I saw all the effort you were putting into posting comments all over the web, I wondered about the person behind them. Actually, what I thought was, wow, she must have really been burned by plagiarism at some point to have such a strong reaction.

      Imagine my surprise when I followed a link to your blog and found an article that seems to defend the practice of borrowing someone else’s design. From ‘Her Hands, My Hands, On Copyright’ (undated blog post):

      “From Taberone I learn that useful articles cannot be copyrighted—which makes sense. I also learn that the vehicle for the tutorial/pattern can be copyrighted but not the items depicted in them:

      “For example, a drawing or photograph of an automobile or a dress design may be copyrighted, but that does not give the artist or photographer the exclusive right to make automobiles or dresses of the same design.”

      Again, makes sense.” http://herhandsmyhands.wordpress.com/on-copyright/

      I know it is your opinion that we all know what plagiarism is and that there is never a hint of gray. What I don’t know is how you can defend the lifting of a craft design and then be so vehemently opposed to something quite similar when it happens in a blog post. To me they are two sides of the same coin, ethically if not legally. But please, I welcome you to explain why my thinking on this is wrong on this subject.

      1. Oh I was wondering when someone was going to confuse plagiarism and copyright–and whether or not those things apply to crafts. A (not so) gentle hint: the former are not the same, and copyright, as I took pains to explain in the page you link to, doesn’t apply to the product of the instructions/tutorial under copyright.

        But hey, I live to educate. If you are truly interested in learning the differences between copyright and plagiarism, as it pertains to the written word, you can take a peak at what Jane Litte, of Dear Author (and a lawyer in the real world) has to say about them.

        Oh and just so you know, there’s a difference between the PAGE on copyright (tab on the top menu on the blog) and the actual post with the same title, which is dated and where the comment threads is open. There’s a link from the former to the later, if you feel inclined to comment there.

        I was also wondering when someone (else) was going to wonder why I am so invested in the whole plagiarism thing. Kudos to you for not asking me if Kristi Diehm, plagiarist, ran over my puppy (old story, you can find out by searching the comment threads at SmartBitches, back when the scandal about Cassie Edwards, plagiarist, broke out).

        Guess what? I don’t need to be the victim of a crime to be outraged by it. Deal with it.

        1. I did read what you said about copyright not applying. I’m just not so sure I understand the difference, more ethically than legally. Thank you for the links.

          1. Ethically? *evil grin* Well, now. That’s rich.

            But let me try to make it plainer–since both my post and Jane’s seem to confusing.

            It’s like this: when I knit a sweater or sew together a book using techniques that I’ve learned from others–or even patterns under copyright, I don’t claim to have invented the techniques nor do I claim to have written the patterns I’m using.

            When a person plagiarizes another person, they take that other person’s original creation and claim it as the product of the plagiarist’s own mind.

            Is that plain enough for you?

            So no, I am not crossing any ethical line–as opposed to, say, Kristi Diehm, plagiarist, who keeps crossing ethical lines by her silence alone.

      2. Oh man, I wish I had looked this over before posting. *tiny, not finy, *why my thinking is wrong on this subject. And I call myself a writer, sheesh.

  6. azteclady, I can’t seem to reply to your reply so I am hoping you find this. I had not yet read Dear Author’s post on copyright v plagiarism. It was incredibly interesting and, again, I thank you for the link. Your response is also illuminating. I hope you didn’t think I was accusing you of crossing an ethical line; I wasn’t. I am just trying to express my opinion that all areas of intellectual property rights can be confusing and difficult to grasp. What is acceptable in the craft world may not be okay in the world of blogging — even though they both involve the use of someone else’s original creation without credit. I’m still struggling to understand the difference but, once again, I appreciate your attempt to set me straight.

    1. (With apologies to Grit and Glamour for hogging the comments)

      Are you honestly saying that you think/believe that blogging–which is a fixed from of expression, explicitly and implicitly protected by copyright–and the making of an item from a pattern/tutorial/set of written instructions, for the purpose of selling said item, are the same thing?

      Color me incredulous–and call me ugly and cynical, because if you are sincere, I despair of my ever making it clear.

      1. Get out your crayon box. It’s true. I am that dense. I’m also done. Thank you for the conversation.

  7. If I were you, I’d be burning things to the ground. So, I’m glad you’re you, because you’re handling this in such a classy way. I’ve been following this story with my hands over my eyes since it broke, but I’ve not been compelled to comment on it much until now. To have professionals in the writing community defending the actions of a known plagiarist makes me very disappointed in the industry I am a part of. I thought book people were better than that. I’m very sorry that you got treated the way you have been treated.

    1. I know your comment here wasn’t meant for me and I also learned a long time ago that defending one’s writing is a waste of time but, hell, I’m doing it anyway. My guest blog on Kristi’s site had nothing to do with promoting my book. Yeah, book, singular. It was published three years ago and was the thrill of my lifetime – but I am no longer actively promoting it.

      I suggested that Kristi host a series of guest posts on plagiarism because … I do not like plagiarism. I didn’t ask to write one of those posts. I thought about the negative impact it could have on my “career” before I agreed to do one. In the end, I decided that helping to open up a conversation about plagiarism was more important, and what little “career” I have would just have to try and weather the storm.
      What my post attempted to say is:

      1. It is a time honored tradition for writers to get inspiration from each other.
      2. Plagiarism is different from that — but not so different that it doesn’t cause confusion.
      3. Plagiarism sucks and people who do it with a clear understanding of the harm they are causing suck even more.
      4. Sometimes plagiarism is so in your face that it is obvious.
      5. Sometimes it is not. Regardless of what the fanfic community believes, there are a lot of people who disagree with them and think it is blurring a line. Common knowledge and fair use are two other areas that a lot of people find confusing.
      6.Even self-proclaimed plagiarists like Eliot have a rule they follow. That rule is: if you are going to start with someone else’s work, change it, improve it, make it better.
      7. Acting like anyone who hasn’t completely digested what plagiarism is, why it’s wrong and how it can be prevented is an idiot who should crawl under a rock and stay there isn’t all that helpful or conducive to growing awareness and changing attitudes.
      8. This feels like a mistake in direction when so many young people already seem to think that anything that is on teh internet is free for the taking.
      9. Admitting what you don’t know if you don’t know it -or- graciously accepting someone else’s ignorance so that you can add to their knowledge feels like a more promising way to go.

      Is there anything in there that causes you shame to be a part of this industry? Is there really anything in Sarah’s post, or Lauren’s that says WE HEART PLAGIARISTS? I can’t speak for the other authors but I also can’t help but think their intentions, like mine, were to make our community stronger and smarter. I thought book people were better than that too.

      I still do.

  8. I can’t help but look up at you even more now, the way you handle this situation is examplary, and your posts about it should be handbook material, if ever there’s a “Bloggers’ Handbook”.

  9. I’m finding your on going story of plagiarism educational and very, very interesting. I always thought of plagiarism as something that happened in college due to laziness and maybe stupidity, but here it happens in my own blogging backyard. I think it’s just so easy these days, with copy and paste, to use someone else’s writing as a base, and then alter it. I’m sure it’s done frequently, and possibly without knowing that it’s even wrong. I think this story is educating a lot of people, me included. So even though I think its unfortunate that this woman will not apologize, I think you and beautifully invisible have taken a bad situation and made something great out of it.

  10. I’ve lost what little respect I have for Kristi after that ‘non-apology post’
    And seriously, I’d rather see her blog taken down.

  11. Thank you for this article. I think it’s a very important topic, CYA. When I worked in the non-profit world, it was also a daily thought, to have everything to CYA because we dealt with the government over large endowments of money. And knowing my A was covered was relieving. Thankfully I never had to deal with it after the fact as Kristi has had to do. But considering how Kristi has handled all of this, with no transparency, a mainline of excuses, and then returning to business as usual before exploding into a week long need to educate us all as if we were the ones who did something wrong… well it makes me seriously question whether or not her ability to be such a prolific review & giveaway factory is authentic or an amalgamation of other people’s work too.

    I am sorry that you and the other 3 have had to deal with all of this. But, as I said to B, you have been very gracious. Thank you.

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