Plagiarism is like a bell that once rung, it cannot be unheard. Author Sonya Larson rang that bell with glee, spite, hatred, and a sincerely shocking lack of knowledge of how the legal system works for allegations in copyright and plagiarism. This is where one valuable lesson comes into play. Popular authors like Celeste Ng, who egged Sonya on and told her the act of plagiarism was totally fine, are not attorneys. And that is who Sonya Larson should have consulted instead.
But it was already too late. She had already rung the sour sound of the bell.
The act of plagiarism itself is separate from being able to defend the action in court. After plagiarizing someone, you have committed a certain act. When you get caught, you are labeled a plagiarizer. It’s an act that you have committed, and often times, it’s unforgivable, and unforgettable in publishing.
It doesn’t matter if Sonya wins or loses her defense on copyright infringement. What matters here is so much more important: she lost our trust and credibility in the writing community.
Who is going to want to trust their work with Sonya Larson? Who in their right mind is going to share a work-in-progress at a workshop at GrubStreet? Who is going to want to be connected professionally to ANY of the Chunky Monkeys, knowing that this is the type of behavior they engage in if you draw their ire?
Will Sonya Larson be able to win her case and justify the act of plagiarism? It remains to be seen. We’ll let the court decide.
Wikipedia defines plagiarism as the “representation of another author‘s language, thoughts, ideas, or expressions as one’s own original work.” Sonya Larson admitted in her group chat that she copied and pasted Dawn’s words and used them verbatim. Sonya Larson happens to be the Muse Conference Director, and put on a conference where she physically ignored and snubbed Dawn Dorland after having been caught plagiarizing Dawn’s work. Her conduct is unbecoming of a conference director and instructor of writing.
GrubStreet is a nonprofit institution that teaches writing. You can become a member and take classes there, or you can remain a non-member and pay a higher rate. Either way, it’s a learning center. Wikipedia goes on to say, “In educational contexts, there are differing definitions of plagiarism depending on the institution. Plagiarism is considered a violation of academic integrity and a breach of journalistic ethics. It is subject to sanctions such as penalties, suspension, expulsion from school or work, substantial fines and even incarceration.”
So why does Sonya Larson still have a job in a director-level position at GrubStreet, and why wasn’t she fired on the spot?
Sonya admitted that she plagiarized Dawn Dorland’s letter. Even gleefully within her Chunky Monkeys writing group. Was Eve Bridburg aware that the Chunky Monkeys were actively campaigning to ice another writer’s career? Probably not. But four (4) Chunky Monkeys are employed by GrubStreet, and failed to recuse themselves ethically, and did not come forward. In addition, many other Chunky Monkeys are affiliated with GrubStreet, and failed to honorably disclose what was happening within the group to Eve Bridburg. This establishes a complete lack of transparency, ethics, and responsibility on their part. But once court documents became available, and the chat transcripts filed, Eve Bridburg should have acted swiftly and removed each one of them from their positions. And that’s why Eve Bridburg is a problem for the GrubStreet organization. This was all filed months ago, and made available for public consumption.
Celeste Ng, Christopher Castellani, Alison Murphy, and Jennifer De Leon were all in positions of power and influence at GrubStreet. There is a sickening tone at the top of that organization. GrubStreet leadership is corrupt with gatekeeping and gleeful support of committing plagiarism.
We will not forget the Bad Art Friend saga of 2021. I still am acutely aware of the Cristiane Serruya scandal from 2019, who had plagiarized multiple passages of Nora Robert’s books. Again, this is a bell that cannot be un-rung, and plagiarism has lasting, permanent effects on your writing career.
Sonya Larson plagiarized. That’s a fact. She admitted to it. Whether or not she can defend it is a whole other story. But you certainly won’t find me reading her books, essays, or anything else. Because to me, her work is tainted. ALL of the Chunky Monkey’s works are tainted for cheering Sonya Larson on in her acts of plagiarism.
And let’s just be honest. It was never Sonya Larson’s story to tell in the first place. A project that you’re passionate about would not be so ripe with factual errors, terrible prose, and a complete misunderstanding of donor process.
I’m looking forward to the story being told by the original owner, Dawn Dorland.