Monday, December 19, 2005

Not for publication?

Author Judith Kelly e-mailed on Saturday to tell me she's planning legal action against the newspapers that have accused her of plagiarism. The subject line of her message reads "Private & Confidential" and the text begins with an underlined command in bold print: "Not for Publication."

Why am I telling you this? Because I believe I was meant to.

I'm guessing that others who have blogged about this story (as I did here and here) received a similar message over the weekend. A couple of quick Google and Technorati searches told me that nobody has talked about this story in a few months, strengthening my suspicion that Ms. Kelly is eager to stir up some more conversation about it. There's no such thing as bad publicity, the wise ones tell us, and Ms. Kelly has been very active in the blogosphere, e-mailing bloggers and even posting public comments to their articles about her. Anyone who who has mentioned Rock Me Gently on a blog has seen the author and her posse (who at least one blogger has "caught" using identical IP addresses*) hurry over (via the search engines) to defend the integrity of the book.

In the past I had occasion to note Ms. Kelly's IP address, so I recognized it when I saw in my referrer logs that someone had ridden in on a search engine yesterday and visited both of my blog entries that mentioned her. Call me a skeptic, but I don't believe she was eager to assure herself that I hadn't blabbed about the contents of Saturday's e-mail. I think she was hoping to find that I had.

Of course I won't quote anyone's e-mail--ever--without permission. In addition to bad manners, it would in many cases constitute a copyright violation. But no e-mail correspondence is confidential unless both parties agree that it will be, and I never asked to receive this message or promised to keep its contents secret. I'm no journalist, so I'm afraid there's no "off the record" option when somebody decides to spill her guts on a subject I've been blogging about. And I'll bet even Ms. Kelly realizes that if something is truly "not for publication," telling it to a blogger might not be her best move.

It's nothing to me if this lady is threatening to sic her attorneys on a bunch of newspapers (although I did spare a moment to wonder how strong a case she'll be able to make, after initially responding to the accusations of plagiarism with all kinds of apologies). I wouldn't have considered this item blogworthy had it not been for Ms. Kelly's odd insistence on the "confidentiality" of the contents of her message coupled with the fact that she rushed over here the next day to see if I'd written anything more about her. She appears to have one or two friends keeping tabs on my blog, as well: Since yesterday morning those two old posts have been searched for and looked at several times by people on computers in London and Glasgow. But while this situation is just bizarre enough to wring a post out of me, I'm not going to reopen the discussion on Rock Me Gently. I've blogged about it twice already and the subject no longer interests me.

*Fun fact: On this blog and most others, anonymous comments are allowed. You can pretend to be anyone you like, and the world will be no wiser, with this exception: A blogger who looks at her referrer logs will generally be able to tell if you're posting comments under more than one name because she has access to information that uniquely identifies your computer. So it's not smart to comment as "Fred" and then come back as "Mary" to write, "You know, Fred is absolutely correct." A savvy blogger will nail you for playing games like that.


Julana said...

Fred and Mary have too much time on their hands. :-)

Mirtika said...

Ms. Kelly sounds like a bizarre person. And yet...I'm still not the slightest bit interested in reading ROCK ME GENTLY. :)

Bonnie Calhoun said...

Me either, I'm more interested in referrer logs!

Anonymous said...

Have to say I agree with you Brenda

Frank said...

Me too!

John said...

Me three!

Neal said...

(sorry Brenda, couldn't resist ...)

Dr. Lisa said...

It would not surprise me, given how readily people make excuses for my student plagiarists, that Ms. Kelley might get somewhere with her legal activities. After awhile, I get to feeling like nobody is responsible for anything they do and I'm the only one who feels guilt instead of outrage/victimization when I got caught out on bad behavior. "I'm sorry, I screwed up. I made a mistake. I was wrong. I cut corners." Do people die from saying these things?

Mirtika said...

Lisa, I'm still outraged at that case a couple years ago of students who cheated, were failed, and the parents came to complain about the teacher--as opposed to chastising their cheating kidlings. I think administration went over the teacher and gave the cheaters passing grades. May be recalling wrong....

That ticked me off big time when it was going on.


Brenda Coulter said...

Now, why am I not at all surprised that Neal went for the cheap laugh? ;-)

Dr. Lisa said...


I'm betting you remember it properly; for the administration of an R1 University where I work, they don't necessarily want to spend time on such complaints. At small teaching schools, tuition is high, and the pressures to please parents as customers are very high. So either way, plagiarizers can get away with a lot in universities.

We have an Honor Code, but it is a bit of a joke. It takes way too much of your time and results in a slap on the wrist as far as I can see.

Mirtika said...

And the thing of it is, there's just no reason for it in school. It's so easy to do the legitimate thing and just have TONS OF quotes, properly attributed/footnoted/endnoted. It's so easy to just give due to the original writer. No reason at all to cheat other than just lazy or a lack of ethics.


Mirtika said...

Neal is a naughty porkpie. Porkpop? Porkpot? I forget. Naughty something, that's for sure.

Mir :)

Neal said...

(thinks: New Year's Resolutions -- number 1 I must resist the temptation to go for the cheap laugh, number 2 I must .....)


Anonymous said...

Dear Brenda,

I am merely trying to get you to stop talking about me and my book and that is why I sent you that confidential e-mail. Yet I see you have "blabbed" about me yet again on another blog site.

My book is no longer available and is out of print, so why do you continue to think I am pushing it?

I've put up with your insults, lies and unkindness towards me for long enough and once again must reiterate that my private e-mail to you was not for publication on yours or any other website.

Just one other point, you will not find another memoir published this year that is as good or memorable as Rock Me Gently and unfortunately, you've missed out on receiving a free copy from the author. I think you will regret this in the future.

With love,
Judith Kelly.

Brenda Coulter said...

I am merely trying to get you to stop talking about me and my book

Ms. Kelly, your message contained nothing that even hinted at such a thing. Quite the contrary, in fact. And considering that it had been a full month since I'd mentioned you on this blog, it was more than a little strange when you contacted me again. It sure looked like you were trying to stir up some more conversation.

It still looks that way. But as I said, I've lost interest in the subject.

Anonymous said...

Happy New Year, Brenda!

I do hope as time passes, you will learn more about human nature and realise how you have greatly misjudged me.

Meantime, I wish you all the success in the world with your future novels and many pleasant hours slurping coffee in Starbucks.