Have you been a bad art friend? Have you lifted ideas from someone’s posts or life, copied and pasted their words verbatim into your latest project? If so, you might be a bad art friend. Today I’ll share how a bunch of writers from Boston in a group called the Chunky Monkeys (affiliated with the GrubStreet writers) landed themselves into the spotlight for plagiarism and terrible behavior.
If you’ve thoroughly read through the chat transcripts, court documents, and timeline of the Bad Art Friend case, and share the same philosophies as I do about treating people with kindness, civility, and basic human decency, then it’ll come as no surprise as to why the Chunky Monkey writing group out of Boston all landed themselves on my DO NOT READ list.
Here is another blog post with all the receipts, in case you want to catch up: Bad Art Friend Case Files Reveal Lying Perjury and Deceit
Related Case & Twitter Accounts:
If you’re new to this story, be sure to read the Larson vs. Dorland Perry lawsuit (which was started by Sonya Larson, the accused plagiarist, if you review the timeline). In addition, read the analysis of several Twitter commentaries, such as @moorehn, @joshua_luna and @dancow. Other Twitter commenters of interest I recommend are @kristinemuslim, @dana_hawkins, and @amygetslit.
Honestly, the New York Times focused way too much on Dorland’s behavior in her Facebook group. But guess what – her group, her content, her rules. Anyone within that group was free to leave. Another article of note is from The Cut, where it references a text message Sonya Larson sent to two of her friends, which reveals the utter shittiness of her actions, and further gives rise to a favorable outcome to the Dorland case.
The Bad Art Friends Case: Larson vs. Dorland Perry
This is a story about plagiarism, copyright law, “market value”, and the value of someone’s words.
This is about a writer lurking in someone’s private Facebook group for the sheer purpose of gossiping behind their back about their group posts, copying and pasting their work, to create a villain in a story about their target’s life using their actual name, all while plagiarizing her words.
This is also a story about the Chunky Monkeys, a Boston writers elitist group, who used a “punch down” technique to gaslight, gossip, and enable the plagiarizer (Sonya Larson). The Chunky Monkeys were founded by Adam Stumacher and Jennifer De Leon (husband and wife). Members also include Sonya Larson, Alison Murphy, Calvin Hennick, Celeste Ng, Whitney Scharer, Chip Creek, Christopher Castellani, Alexandria Marzona-Lesnevich, and Becky Tuch.
The Chunky Monkeys even made fun of Dawn Dorland for being featured as Laker of the Day, appearing on the jumbotron. All this despite being an advocate and inspiring others to be a living donor.
Look at How Little Dawn Dorland Had to Do to Attract the Chunky Monkey’s Hate
This is a screenshot of a Chunky Monkeys chat between Whitney Scharer and Sonya Larson.
Here’s a video of how Dawn inspired other donors to help others, and what the Chunky Monkeys where laughing at. Honestly.
Finally, here’s a video of Dawn, being a spokesperson and advocate for becoming a living donor.
This story reveals what happens when contacts on Facebook and writing peers are thought of as friends instead of what they really are – acquaintances who may not give a crap about you as a person, and the only value you are to them is of entertainment value or as a virtual punching bag.
Finally, this is a story about using the race card pre-meditated without any issue actually being about race as a means to hurt someone as a defense to your own wrongdoing. Plagiarizing someone’s work does not mean you get to whip out the race card and say that a white woman is trying to lay claim to your story as your defense. Weaponizing the race card, as you may know, is entirely inappropriate and damaging to the collective other members of the race when used inappropriately. In fact, according to the group’s chat transcript (acquired by the courts), Alison Murphy even suggested to Sonya Larson that they use that race card as a defense and also as a weapon to silence and humiliate Dawn Dorland.
I don’t care or give a rat’s ass if someone is boasting or wants recognition for donating a kidney. Humble bragging is a consistent trait and post variety on the majority of author Facebook pages, and I have seen many posts written by the Chunky Monkeys themselves as individual writers that are of this classification. As vomit-inducing as it is, it’s not legally actionable. And absent anything else, it doesn’t make you a bad person. And you have the option to view, react, or move on with your life. So why didn’t Sonya Larson move on or just remove herself from Dawn’s private group? Sonya Larson chose to stay, to lurk, and use Dawn as entertainment value for her next project. Dawn’s story had value to her. Dawn was a punching bag and subject of Sonya’s malicious aggression. Sonya Larson is a user. A fake friend. A grifter.
I don’t even care if that person is self-important or in need of attention constantly. I don’t even care if that person is insufferable, narcissistic, or even reaches out to people in trying to establish relationships when the other person doesn’t want one. They’ve done nothing legally wrong. And it doesn’t make them worthy of what this writer group did to Dawn, and it certainly doesn’t justify Sonya Larson’s actions of plagiarism. If you read through the New York Times article and your final takeaway is that Dawn Dorland is a “mess”, “insufferable”, “needy”, “entitled”, or anything else that does not reflect the actual perpetrator worthy of legal action, you and I probably have nothing in common.
Just because someone exhibits awkwardness in establishing friendships, is self-absorbed, or wanting of attention, does not mean they are deserving to be unlawfully stolen from. Bad social behavior is not the same as theft. One is not a legal issue. Plagiarism and copyright laws are. Sonya Larson is a literary grifter. No one will change my mind about this. And if her friends in the Boston Chunky Monkeys agree with this behavior, then they are probably the same, and have done it themselves.
In fact, I will even go so far as to say that this whole thing was a calculated, manipulative move by Sonya Larson from the start. She was so socially offended and annoyed with Dawn Dorland that she purposely took Dawn’s story, put her as a character in it, added race for spice, plagiarized her thinking she wouldn’t find out (duh, we all do), and actually published “The Kindest” with the sole purpose of making money off of it, with the hidden attempt to humiliate and mock Dawn Dorland publicly as a sort of joke within their Chunky Monkeys circle. THAT, to me, is the cringe factor of this story. Not whether or not Dawn Dorland is a mental case. Mental health, past traumas, and social awkwardness is something that we should be exercising compassion for, not putting people on a pedestal to laugh at and make them a target of our writing aggression.
As a result of the Bad Art Friend case, I have officially put these writers and authors on my DO NOT READ list, for their appalling behavior, the enabling of a plagiarist, their weaponizing and encouragement of using the race card to justify this behavior, and bottom line, just being indecent, terrible human beings.
Bad Art Friends Do Not Read List
– Celeste Ng (the enabler friend “oh plagiarism isn’t that big of a deal and Dawn’s posts are terrible anyway – she’s insufferable”)
– Sonya Larson (the plagiarizer, grifter of words, and FB group lurker, made Dawn Dorland her personal punching bag and target of her book, “The Kindest”)
– Alison Murphy (suggested to Sonya Larson that she, in so many words, weaponize the race card – who does this?!)
– Adam Stumacher (group founder, failed to establish any sort of ethics of the group, obviously condoned this behavior, has the audacity to speak of needing the grace of connection in an article about a former student, but would not extend grace of connection to Dawn Dorland, an outsider)
– Jennifer De Leon (group founder, gaslighter, gossip, and overall just terrible person, made fun of Dawn Dorland for being on a float in a parade as a kidney donor)
– Whitney Scharer (for engaging in this awful gossip, and not stopping it)
– Chip Creek (for engaging in this awful gossip, and not stopping it)
– Christopher Castellani (for engaging in this awful gossip, and not stopping it)
– Alexandria Marzona-Lesnevich (for engaging in this awful gossip, and not stopping it)
– Becky Tuch (for engaging in this awful gossip, and not stopping it)
PS – Hey Chunky Monkeys, as a group, and engaging in group effort, you’re all equally responsible for your group’s conduct.
I don’t support authors who engage in catty, uncivil gossip, and terrible conduct. I hope you won’t either. I also don’t support writers in any such writer clique (small big or large), with behaviors that suggest a group-effort takedown of any other writer because they were somehow offended. Mob mentality sucks, and these are the types of groups that get it started.
Here’s a pro tip. The next time someone comes to you with gossip that you wouldn’t want someone doing to you, maybe next time say to them “What makes you think I’m a safe person to engage in this behavior or to discuss this with?” Because that will shut down the gossiper, and remind them to be a better, decent human being. Shut it down. We are all capable of exercising compassion and empathy. It’s a choice. One that Sonya and her ilk chose not to take.
And maybe, if you’re in a writer’s group, maybe focus on the craft itself and not on other people you view to be lower than you and not worth your time? Who was obsessed with who again? C’mon, Chunky Monkeys. Do better.
Other recommended articles: Bad Art(ificial intelligence) and Bad Art Friend Case Reveals Lying, Perjury & Deceit