Wednesday, July 08, 2009

A few things, some nice, some not so nice.

I am back at work in my cool cellar/study, just the right temperature when it's 27 degrees outside. Since the lovely news about the Binnacle Ultra-Short comp, I have done a u-turn on my previous decision to stop writing flash fiction. The universe seems to be telling me that I'm pretty good at it, and I do love writing flash, so I'm going to keep on doing it.

I started today by writing a 25-word piece for Hint Fiction, a new anthology forthcoming from W.W Norton. If you link to the Hint Fiction page from your blog, they allow you to submit three pieces instead of two. Details:

Tentatively scheduled for the fall of 2010, W.W. Norton will publish an anthology of Hint Fiction. What is Hint Fiction? It’s a story of 25 words or less that suggests a larger, more complex story. The thesis of the anthology is to prove that a story 25 words or less can have as much impact as a story 2,500 words or longer. The anthology will include between 100 and 150 stories. We want your best work.

It’s possible to write a complete story in 25 words or less — a beginning, middle, end — but that’s not Hint Fiction.

The very best Hint Fiction stories can be read many different ways.

We want stories we can read again and again and never tire of. Stories that don’t pull any punches. Stories that make us think, that evoke some kind of emotional response.

I heartily agree that "a story 25 words or less can have as much impact as a story 2,500 words or longer"! I've written one, will try and write some more. Have a go. Read the full guidelines here.

Now for the not so nice part. A few weeks ago I was the victim of a plagiarist, who took all of the aspects of one of my published stories that made it my unique creation, added a few things of his own, passed it of as his, and not only was it published but it won a prize. I know this person, he had been a trusted writing colleague. The person in question did not admit any wrongdoing, but the competition removed his "story" from their site. He has done this before and since, to others I know and perhaps more that we are not aware of.

It was, to say the least, a deeply distressing experienceI felt physically ill, couldn't write for quite a long time afterwards.

Several of us involved in this incident decided to do something. It isn't possible to safeguard your work from predators like this, unless you simply decide never to submit a story again. Once your work is out there, there is not much to be done. But... it is most certainly worth discussing what plagiarism in fiction means, and how we can make sure that we are not crossing the line between being "inspired by" - which to me is an essential aspect to creative writing - and theft.

To that end, Jane Smith on the wonderful How Publishing Really Works blog is having an Anti-Plaguarism Day on Friday July 15th. She says:

On that day I’m going to blog about plagiarism, and I’d like you to do the same: on your own blogs, on message boards, on Facebook or Twitter: anywhere where writers congregate. If you don’t have a blog of your own but would like to get involved then email your piece to “hprw at tesco dot net”, with a subject line of “HPRW anti-plagiarism day”, and I’ll post it here. Send me links to your blog posts or message board discussions and I’ll edit them into my piece.

You can write about anything you like, so long as it’s based on plagiarism: what it is, what’s allowed and what’s not, famous cases of plagiarism, how it feels to be plagiarised, and what effects plagiarism can have (on both of the writers involved): anything which is plagiarism-related, honest, well-researched and properly informed.

Read her full post here. Let's inform ourselves so that if anything like this happens to anyone, we can spot it, stop it, be aware. I hope no-one ever has to go through this.

Back to more positive things! I am off to write more Hint Fiction.


Carolyn Jess-Cooke said...

Oh my goodness, Tania, I can't believe that (well I can, but still...) I'm sorry to hear that. It makes me want to be much more careful about who I share ideas with! xx

Tam said...

I'd heard about this and was utterly gobsmacked on your behalf. I'm glad you're writing again and will be joining in with Anti-Plagiarism day.

Jane Smith said...

Tania, thank you so much for this blog post: plagiarism is a horrible thing and the more we can do to raise awareness and clarify what's allowable and what's not the better. And the more people who join in on Friday 17th the better: if anyone is keen to join in but isn't able or willing to write their own post then they can easily quote from mine (so long as they link to it), or just link to it. Because next time, it could be any one of us.

Lauri Kubuitsile said...

I will definitely be joining in as I too have been a victim of plagarism when I owned our local newspaper.

Completely off topic- Tania do you think 27C is hot? Is that what I am to understand from your comment? Just curious really. it's about 20C here right now and I am FREEZING.

Tania Hershman said...

Carolyn, yes, sadly, this kind of incident tends to have that effect. It made me think twice about revealing the name of the main character of my Long Work in Progress on my blog.

Tam, glad you're joining in, it's important.

Jane, thanks for doing this!

Lauri, sorry to hear that but good to have you with us. And no, 27 degrees isn't hot at all, it's very pleasant round here! 33 and up, that's my idea of hot. At least it's not humid. I'd been in woollies at 20 degrees.

dan powell said...

Amazing to me that someone would stoop so low as to pass off another's work as their own. I can understand why you would feel so distressed by that. I'll be taking part in Anti-Plagiarism Day.

BTW - recently finished reading 'The White Road and other stories.' Great collection.

Tania Hershman said...

Thanks, Dan!! That more than balances out the nasty stuff.

KatW said...

What an awful thing to happen to you. How mean that someone can do that. Glad they were removed from comp.

The Hint Fiction sounds very interesting & fun. I love the idea of being able to read it over and over and get something new each time. It's a bit like when my writing group are doing exercises using the same picture or set of words & are all inspired very differently. I shall check it out. Thanks for that.

I think you're right to recognise your talent for writing flash fiction & continue to do so.

Take care

Teresa Stenson said...

I can't imagine what it must feel like to have your ideas/work stolen. Just yesterday a writer friend told me about an idea she has for a story, and it happens to be an idea and a story (she didn't know this) that I've already written - and it was weird, I felt protective, without any right to - so what happened to you must have been just infuriating.

And - more power to the flash!

Thanks for posting about Hint Fiction - I think I'll give that a go.