Apr

26

1-2-3-4, I Declare a Chick Lit War

Written by

When college-authored Young Adult Chick Lit scandals emerge, who better to comment than Barnard ’08’s own Robyn Schneider. Herself the author of two forthcoming Young Adult books, Robyn (B&W profile) is taking it personally.

Kaavya Viswanathan must have an industrial strength photographic memory.
Why, you ask? Because only someone with a mind like a steal (ha) trap
could unknowingly plagiarize Megan McCafferty’s novels more than forty
times and do so unconsciously.

McCafferty’s publisher, Steve Ross, called the Harvard sophomore’s debut
novel, already a New York Times bestseller, “Nothing less than an act of
literary identity theft.” He claims that it is “inconceivable” that
Kaavya was not aware of what she was doing.

But what I think is that Kaavya still isn’t aware of what she’s done.
Many of the litblogs I read are blaming Kaavya’s plagiarism not on her
lack of morals but on her age. Apparently, if you give a teen a book
deal, they won’t know better than to plagiarize. It’s sentiments like
this that make me want to gouge my name out of the LA Times article that
featured Viswanathan and myself as young chick lit novelists. Do I have
to listen to sweeping generalizations that all young writers don’t take
stealing seriously because our generation downloads illegal music files?
Just because James Frey lied doesn’t mean I automatically assume all
memoirists are “embellishing” the hell out of their unremarkable lives.
And just because Kaavya apparently plagiarized doesn’t mean that all young
novelists should be blamed. Can the world please leave the rest of us out
of this?


What terrifies me about these reactions is the real possibility that
Kaavya, the “six figure sophomore,” has brought a plague upon the young
novelist. Bitter older writers who have yet to secure a book deal gripe
that teen authors are getting all the book deals, all the money, and all
the media attention. They claim that none of us deserve it, and that
we’re all publicity stunts. They say that if Kaavya was a fake, then the
rest of us probably are, too.

And there is absolutely nothing that makes accusations like those okay.
I’ve read some reactions to this plagiarism scandal where my name is used
as a qualifier, a scrap of evidence that there are young writers out there
who are for real. I don’t appreciate being a contradiction to someone
else’s mistake, to being dragged into this debacle just because I’m the
other “Ivy League sophomore chick lit novelist.” I’m embarrassed for
Kaavya because I can’t even conceive of how someone could repeatedly pick
up the same two books and borrow from them over and over. And why Megan
McCafferty? I think this whole thing would have been a lot more hilarious
if she’d borrowed from Proust. Or how about stealing from the Canterbury
Tales? That seems distinctly more Harvard to me than a novel that gives
one character the nicknames “lend-a-hand-Amanda” and then “the
headmaster.”

This whole situation is so over the top that, in my angered state, I can’t
help but make jokes about it. Even today, I sat down across from my
editor at Random House and joked, “By the way, I’m really obsessed with
Megan McCafferty. I read her all the time when I was finishing up my
copyedits during finals last semester.” My editor rolled her eyes and
told me to stop that.

You know, I used to think that Kaavya was a richer, more publicized
version of myself (i.e. I was jealous of her advance), but now I realize
that I’m the only sophomore with a book deal left (in good) standing, so
whether I like it or not, I guess it’s in my hands to prove that we’re not
all as fake as Chinatown Prada bags.

Tags: ,

87 Comments

  1. yeah...  

    ...you can't be the other "Ivy League sophomore chick lit novelist" if you're at Barnard.

  2. c'mon  

    save the barnard bashing for [email protected]..

  3. chick lit  

    goes into the slam poetry, and critical literary theory on hardy boys books for me as the category of ridiculous crap

  4. go bwog

    thanks for getting robyn's take on this!

  5. ugh  

    "Even today, I sat down across from my

    editor at Random House"...this article was the most obnoxious thing I've ever read. gag me with a spoon, please.

  6. i respect robyn but...  

    wait i've read a lot of articles about kaavya and i haven't seen robyn quoted in any of them yet... but yeah it was cool to get her take.

  7. i respect robyn but...cont  

    i meant robyn referenced as another chick lit author

  8. Pat

    Dear lord... Who ever said that this article was the most obnoxious thing they ever read; I second that. Robyn isn't even published yet. Why is she getting so much press? There are plenty of other young authors- sophomores in college too!- who have books coming out, but you don't see them acting like they're the coolest thing in the world. Robyn needs to get over her "prada bag" carrying self.



    As far as the KV stuff, though, I agree with her about giving young writers a bad name. I just hope that it isnt left to *Robyn* to clear that name, or they're all screwed.

  9. ...  

    the only way this girl could be any more of a douche bag is if she were actually liquid and inside of my vagina as i type this

    • thanks  

      "the only way this girl could be any more of a douche bag is if she were actually liquid and inside of my vagina as i type this" -- thank you, anonymous poster. this comment literally made my day

      • Faye

        ""the only way this girl could be any more of a douche bag is if she were actually liquid and inside of my vagina as i type this" -- thank you, anonymous poster. this comment literally made my day" You too? ^_^

  10. embittered old man  

    Here's a tip for these "chick lit six figure sophomore" authors, or whatever we're calling them:



    Learn something about life (beyond being a teenager). Then write about it.

  11. CL

    This is a pretty interesting and well-written essay, Robyn! Thanks for having the guts to write it, and to share it with all of us (especially in a forum where people can leave anonymous comments).



    By the way, to the anonymous criticizers, Robyn is a pretty cool person and it's worth just saying hello to her instead of leaving anonymous silly comments.



    Anyway, to comment on the essay itself, I agree that it's not fair to blame KV's age (17) or to paint all young authors with the same brush. But I think there are some ways you CAN blame her age. Sure, not all 17-year-olds plagiarize, but it certainly is more likely that a 17-year-old can be manipulated and excited by getting a book deal and make mistakes more than, say, a 40-year-old writer with more industry know-how would. So it's not that her youth makes her immoral, it might just make her naive or more exploitable, which probably happened here.



    But yes, certainly the reason people are bringing her age up was jealousy. They were peeved at her big advance at her young age. But they have to remember that there are thousands of young authors out there who WON'T get those sorts of deals, as well as plenty of adults who won't, either. It's very hard to get a book deal, and those who do, usually worked really really really hard for it, no matter what you think of the book. Robyn, for instance, had to go through the same years of rejection and studying the industry that older folks did. If she hadn't, she probably wouldn't have her deal.



    So people should stop focusing on the one or two Kaavyas out there and being so jealous, although I can see why in this case they would be, and instead realize that 99.9 percent of writers out there are in the same boat as they are, just scrounging to get their hard-work manuscript to the one agent who will care and love it.

  12. oo I'm anonymous

    Stop leaving comments pretending to be other people saying how awesome you are Robyn :P

  13. M.R.  

    The 'too young to understand plagiarism' card is pathetic and played out. For christ's sake my 4th grade teacher 'taught' us about plagiarism. My AP teachers promised to 'search or whatever you do on that new fangled internet' to see if our papers had been bought online. Maybe these 'young' writers need to get acquainted with an MLA guide already. Oh their writing, *fiction*, so it's, like, OK to ignore the rulez lol!1

  14. CL

    Wow, some of you are really angry, and over what?



    Actually, I'm not Robyn, but I'm interested in seeing what people think of the topic. I'm curious to hear your thoughts. Or maybe you'd like to post an essay on something of a literary nature; please do.

  15. mr. zj  

    "It’s sentiments like

    this that make me want to gouge my name out of the LA Times article that

    featured Viswanathan and myself as young chick lit novelists."



    I want to gouge my eyes out so I will never have to read such a shameless piece of self-promotion from ms. schneider again.

  16. M.R.  

    As someone who is not robyn (see the email, no its not my UNI), I'd like to say I think I know who CL is. Hint: It's not robyn.

  17. Andrew

    That was an interesting take on it. Thanks.

  18. ab

    i've been reading robyn's website and lj for awhile. i'm in talks to have a book published soon, and screw the opal mehta girl and all that-- it's really important for people to know we're not all like robyn. we don't all talk about being published every 5 seconds, or writing, or how fantastic we are. i swear.

    • DP

      you just did. and then you tore down someone else. i hope everyone isn't like YOU! good luck with your 'talks.' why not get over your attitude now, before your book (maybe) gets published. and why are you reading robyns website anyway? there are like 20,000 live journals out there. guess you need publishing tips or something? geez, relax and get over it. i am sure robyn is sleeping soundly while you tell us about your 'talks' at 3 a.m.

  19. m & d

    no, you don't talk about writing every 5 seconds, just probably other bullsht instead of the same bullst robyn does. you are all a bunch of boring ivy leaguers. go to sleep and stop wasting your parents tuition money, all of you. NOW.

  20. who  

    the fuck are these people and why are they posting here?

  21. People are Pricks  

    When I met Robyn, I had NO IDEA she had a book deal. I just thought she was kind of ...crazy. And I admit, she left a bad taste in my mouth originally because she was so out there and made me feel awkward. Yet, seeing everyone diss her really peeves me too. Although I don't know her too well personally, I admire and support her because she seems to work hard and get a lot of shit from people that don't know her (like me). Now I feel- Get off her ass, she's worked hard and deserves the recognition that she's receiving. I was actually pretty curious to hear her take on this too.

  22. ab

    sorry i offended people, never mind

  23. DHI  

    whoa

    whoa

    whoa

    whoa

    whoa

    everybody here has been missing the point: when you say "chick lit" quickly it sounds like "chick clit"



    just felt that had been seriously overlooked

  24. Claire

    Hee. Excellent article, Robyn.

  25. Amalia

    you're not an ivy leaguer. you go to barnard college, happens to be across the street. yes you can take classes at columbia. but umass amherst kids can also take classes at amherst college, okay?

  26. Reader

    Dear Robyn,



    Congratulations on making a career out of being completely talentless! I'll be sure to pick up a copy of your book from the remainders bin in 2008. Please continue to pat yourself on the back for all the "hard work" you're putting into wasting trees in the midst of global warming. See ya at the apocalypse!



    Yours,

    an adoring fan

  27. moph  

    Barnard is an affiliate of Columbia University.



    Barnard students get Columbia University degrees.



    Barnard student IDs are produced by our ID Center.



    She is an Ivy Leaguer. Whether or not that bothers you is your own issue.



    Besides--Barnard's acceptance rate is pretty close to SEAS's.

  28. matthew harrison  

    also--i'm amazed by how bitter anonymous commenting makes people.



    i'm certainly guilty myself, but man.



    she WROTE A BOOK, y'all. i'm not a fan of chick lit as a genre anymore than most of the rest of the you, but still. that takes a lot of work and guts and all of that.



    i thought the article was interesting, even if it did expose her biases. it's like when slate has people write about their own experiences.

  29. Lem

    Hey, maybe she uses recycled paper.

  30. Amalia

    Barnard is an afflilate of Columbia University but it is its own SEPERATE COLLEGE. for god's sake. barnard college girls are barnard college girls - the ivy league doesn't have barnard in it, it has Columbia.

    • Oh snap

      That's so correct it hurts!



      If you hate Barnard, get over it. It doesn't change your life that it exists, and Barnard girls get to enjoy the privilige of going to what is, really, a pleasant and unpretentious liberal arts school without all the bullshit and arrogance that CC seems to drill into everyone at Day One.



      Plus, they have a better campus.

    • Twats..all of you.  

      Columbia University includes Barnard. The University is Ivy, Barnard is Ivy. That, and they have more of it growing on the walls of their buildings than we have on ours.



      Personally, I think it would be a smart move to go to Barnard: better advising, better food, better dorms, less elitist bullshit, better language classes, more comely campus, no Core. I'm sure there are a few people out there that have chosen BC over CC. Taunting aside, it's a better place to be. Sucks to be a man.

      • Um.

        I don't know about the resta yiz, but what I'm trying to "reconcile" is "twats, all of you" with "sucks to be a man."



        I think what needs to be remembered here is that, personal tastes in footwear and academic loyalties aside, Robyn Schneider is an ambitious young adult.



        Just like you.



        And you.



        And you.



        And -especially- you.



        Just on this comment board, the competition among you seems desperately snarky.



        It's pretty sick to think that someone could be obsessing over someone else's online journal (for fuck's sake), despising them, and all the while committing little factoids about their daily routine to memory just so you blow them up in everyone's face later.



        The only logical explanation for that kind of behavior is sheer jealousy. That's not me saying, "Oh, you're just jealous." That's me saying, "Do you fucking hear yourself?? Do you realize you just wrote 900 words about how much you can't stand some girl you've more or less been cyber-stalking??"



        I mean, I get sick of hearing about sample sales and sublets as much as the next non-New Yorker, but come on, ladies! Your sniveling is the stuff these YA chick-lit books are made of...

      • M.R.  

        "Columbia University includes Barnard. The University is Ivy, Barnard is Ivy."



        Newsflash: Columbia does NOT include Barnard. Barnard is an independent college with a legal intercorporate agreement with Columbia University.



        You may have a point but your logic has a hole large enough to drive a mack truck through. I hate it when people do that.



        The Ivy League has Columbia in it, the name under which Barnard participates in NCAA sports, so yes Barnard is technically an ivy school by way of Columbia's affiliation with the league and a cosortium agreement that can be compared to something like the Claremont McKenna colleges. Look that up.



        Now that's waht i call an identity issue

  31. re: amalia  

    No, the Ivy League is a league of athletic competition.



    Technically, Columbia's membership in the Ivy League is as the Columbia-Barnard Athletics Consortium, or whatever the technical name is.

  32. A Nonny Moose

    What is being overlooked in this situation is that this was not simply a case of a teenaged girl who sat down and worked hard and wrote a novel and sold it for a huge advance. It's about a packager (17th Street/Alloy) who saw the girl as a product to be sold. The book is a secondary consideration. It was "conceptualized" and plotted by the 17th Street packagers. This is like Making the Band literary-style. 17th Street found a young cute girl to front their chick-lit book. The huge advance had nothing to do with the quality of her work but with a publicity machine that wanted to sell movie rights and so had to inflate the marketability of their product.

  33. hey assholes  

    stop bitching, get over it.

  34. yeah, assholes...  

    I don't know Robyn, but no one deserves to be treated like this.

    • hmmm  

      i don't know robyn but i would like her a lot more if she were less about self-promotion; sure she's angry that critics might be more skeptical of this chick lit genre, but constantly likening herself to viswanathan, the way she sees herself as "the other ivy league sophomore chick lit novelist", and yes, the way she always downplays that goes to barnard all continue to irk me. (be proud of where you go to school, robyn.)

  35. M.R.  

    How the F*** did this turn into a 'Is Barnard Columbia/Ivy League' bitch-fest?



    Seriously Columbia students, ask yourself something. Are you SO insecure about your self worth and SO need to have it vindicated by protecting your exclusive right to affiliate with the Columbia and Ivy names that you feel someone from Barnard using either term is somehow devaluing your accomplishments?



    Unless you're a bunch of ignorant naive full-of-yourselves freshmen (highly possible) you should have gotten over something so petty as this by now. Even if you are freshmen, it's still inexcusably stupid.

  36. Anna

    Why can't any of you spell?

  37. clit-erary

    http://robbiewriter.livejournal.com/

    Read Robyn's livejournal. She emailed Kaavya saying she's from Columbia and a fellow "insider" in the publishing world. She tells the world about her advances and how much she pays for her big big apartment. What an insecure tool, get over yourself.

  38. Ignoring...  

    This entire argument, but here's a link to the Onion weighing in on the situation



    http://www.theonion.com/content/node/47912

  39. Anon

    Robyn is a spoiled brat who fully supported this novel and it's author until this incident popped up. She acts like she's a goddess when really she's a menial California girl who moved to NY on daddy's paycheck.

  40. ugh  

    It seems that Ms. Schneider could use a healthy dose of criticism like this, if only to slow the massive inflation of her ego.



    My friend interviewed her for the Barnard bulletin and came away disgusted by Robyn's dream of getting her MFA by age 22 (this was not put in the bulletin article, but it's in her blog) so she can come back to either Barnard or Columbia for the specific purpose of teaching writing to the same people she had classes with. This sort of goal clearly speaks for itself.



    "I'll wear my cute pleated schoolgirl skirts and kneesocks, ooh, or my Manolos, and be a college professor. This time, when I apply to Harvard again, it will be for a faculty position."



    It saddens me that such a deluded egomaniac goes to Barnard.



    ps, Robyn did not get in to Barnard the first time she applied. Nor did she get in to any Ivy League/affiliated school, although she did apply to the ENTIRE Ivy League. She seems to value Barnard mostly for its Columbia affiliation, which is also extremely sad. All around, a sad sad situation.

    • oh so true

      I concur. People should always be proud of where they are going to school. There are plenty of people in this world who won't care that Robyn isn't a "real" Ivy Leaguer. And there are plenty of people who will dislike her for the fact that she thinks anything less is below her. Plenty of smart young people go to ::gasp!:: non-Ivy colleges, because they know they're getting a better education in their chosen field. And plenty of smart kids don’t even get into school because of lack of funding.



      There are plenty of smart students even ::oh my god!:: the community colleges that Robyn so looks down upon. There are plenty of smart young published authors too. Ms. Schneider, your “O.C.” roots are showing, and the East Coast eats people like you for breakfast.



      Robyn, you freak out when people misquote you. But what are you doing being quoted anyway? Your first novel isn’t due out for another 9 months! And you’ve been dumping on Kaavya far longer than this scandal’s been going on.



      You toot your own horn so much. In your journal you can write what you want; but when you have “the whole world” watching you, your every move can and will be scrutinized. And right now the verdict is Robyn Schneider is a conceited little wannabe-trendy girl who wouldn’t know how to have a good time if someone came up to her and asked her to hang out in the first place.



      You play up this “reluctantly-stereotyped 19-year-old chick lit writer trying to navigate life in New York City.” Your journal’s subtitle is “a refreshing blend of books, shoes, and crazy”. You are always mentioning how “oddly popular” you and your journal and your site and your “Correspondences With YA Fiction Agents” are! You are writing a book about being a “social climber” in high school, and you describe it as “catty, chatty hip handbook on how to social climb your way through high school.” If you scream “I AM A POPULAR SOCIALITE WHO CARES ONLY ABOUT BEING TRENDY” then people will think that is what and who you are. If you obsess about being hip and in and wearing expensive shoes, only those people who feel the same way are going to give two shits about you. And “who you really are” doesn’t matter to who you present yourself as.



      Your overwhelming display of “pity me!” is probably part of what people don’t like about you. If you’ve never been kissed, that says something about you: not that you aren’t a pretty girl, but that something about your personality just turns people away, guys and girls. Maybe if you had loosened up and realized that you shouldn’t be planning “for the future” all the time but enjoying your present, you might have made a friend or two. Today is the tomorrow of yesterday’s promises after all.



      Your priorities seem to be writing and getting your name out, but your heart is begging for a little social entertainment, and you need to learn how to reconcile that.



      You are unhappy with yourself, and trying to convince us that everything you do is what’s important. If something is wrong, you pick up ten new hobbies. Why avoid things rather than confront them? You seem to be saying “Feeling down? Drown your time in something else so that you don’t have to think about what’s actually bothering you!” You fill your time with groups and organizations and hope that it’ll be enough. But you are still being published with Random House, the biggest publisher in this country. You’ve met your agent in person; you’ve met your editor in person. You seem to be forgetting that, even with all the bad things in your life, you are still living someone else’s fantasy life; you are living YOUR OWN fantasy life.



      But no one’s had the guts to tell this to your face; they’re all too busy kissing your ass. You’re not wonderful; you’re just you. If you stopped presenting the face of an automaton some of the time and maybe acted like a human being with feelings people just might start treating you like one.



      So, Robyn take these comments and internalize them yourself. You said in one of your entries that you "weren't always this way" (and then promptly removed said entry.) If you weren't always this way, and you don't like how people see you as a snobby Cali girl, then stop acting like one. People take people at their word, especially in their journals. And in your journal, you come off as self-important, mildly delusional, incapable of real social interaction (and decidedly clingy only to anyone you can name-drop from the literary world), and thinking that going parties and getting drunk are what everyone does. Your vision is so small and misguided.



      You are every bit the writing scam that Kaavya is and was, because you aren't published yet and you act like the world owes you something. When your novel comes out, then the world will see what you really are writing; and hopefully it's not as disgustingly elitist as this. Although, as one article mentioned, with character names like Skylar Banks and Blake Dorsey, what can we really hope for?

  41. blahhh  

    robyn may in fact be the biggest tool in the whole ivy league.

  42. haha

    Chick Lit is the corruption of society. All Chick Lit should be taken off the shelves and burned.



    I don't see where Robyn gets off complaining about who she chose to steal work from when Robyn's books are just the same as Megan's.

  43. Columria

    "And right now the verdict is Robyn Schneider is"



    Uh, what verdict? Talk about deluded and fantasy. As someone else said, you are cyberstalking the girl and then acting like you need to teach her things. No one is kissing up to her, and she does have friends. She is not perfect and neither are you. If you want to criticize her, at least stick to the truth, and don't delude yourself into believing you represent a verdict. Do you have like 22 personalities or somethin?

  44. yeah...

    I think that's something a lot of people have overlooked: not only is Robyn dumping on Kaavya, she's dumping on Megan. And what, pray tell oh Chick Lit writer, makes YOU above them?



    Kaavya is also a lying sack of shit. She says Megan's books "spoke to her" but there's a great article about how she really isnt the chick lit type, that lists all of the books in the past two years she's mentioned liking. Guess whose books AREN'T mentioned anywhere? If she was so in love with those books, she probably did so "accidental"ly.

  45. ::whimper::

    i would like to apologize for my comments on this board. robyn came to me and confessed that she was very hurt by what i said about her here, and she convinced me that she isn't any of those things anyone is saying about her. robyn, forgive me. your humble servant is not worthy to bask in your divine, manolo blahnik-wearing presence. your are normal, and never needed your self-assigned "project normal", nor will you ever need it. i prostrate myself before you.

  46. Columria

    whimper, i can see that you have trouble accepting anyone who is different and has a passion for different things than you do. you also have trouble accepting that you read this girl's blog obsessively as well as her bwog story. i'll bet you were the popular girl in h.s. who looked down on everyone, and had mommy and daddy get you into columbia anyway. good luck with those etiquette lessons.

    • yeaaah, you're right

      thanks, columbria. i'm gonna try my hardest on this "etiquette" thing. where can i get lessons?! i bet if my parents were alive you'd be right on. people who are different make my head hurt!

  47. DHI  

    Listen.

    There is only one way to decide this: a thumb war.



    See, the title is wrong. It is supposed to be "1-2-3-4, I declare a thumb war". They said Chick Lit by mistake. The two authors and all commentors involved should simply try to pin each other's thumbs to decide who is right.

  48. what???  

    "like an Isaac Misrahi top from Target. Yeah, he still designed it, but there's something less genuine about it."

    What the fuck does this even mean?

  49. word

    Robyn, might I suggest trading Carrie Bradshaw in for a new role model? This "People know me/I'm a writer and dammit I demand to be taken seriously/drown my sorrows in sample sales" bit is soooo two seasons ago.

  50. spec  

    did anyone notice in the "complaints dept" section of the spec today it said "barnard and other ivies have it, but columbia..."



    I couldn't believe my eyes...

    • to spec:  

      it doesn't seem like there's one way to read that... it could be "Barnard and other Ivies (like Barnard)..." or it could be Barnard and other Ivies (like Columbia"



      unclear, not offensive

  51. Sophie

    Quit bitching about Robyn, morons.

  52. Chloe the dog

    well, robyn wrote on a snarky obnoxious blog and got snarky obnoxious comments in return. good for you for playing into it!

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