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DonnaReed
07-02-2005, 08:30 AM
May I share a little incident?

About ten years ago, after graduating college, I was very happy and enthusiastic about my plans to write a book of memoirs.

I wrote to an author, a young woman I admired. She runs a foundation for an entertainer and is also an author. After reading her book, I was moved to write to her, and I shared events of my life about which I wanted to write in order to motivate others.


I was disappointed that she didn't even send a standard letter or a thank you card, let alone a written reply. About two years later, she came out with a fiction book that was based on (guess what?)...what I revealed to her about my life.

She created a fiction story around what I confided to her about my life and created fictional characters of my father and exactly what I described happened to him and our family.

I was crushed, devasted, cried for days and was angry for years...(it's been a few). I also shut down and never attempted to go ahead and write - afraid that she had ruined it for me because her book is fairly successful, and she is a more experienced writer than I am.
She's working on a sequel, and a movie deal too.

(I was advised when I finally mentioned it a former college professor of mine that unless I can absolutely prove it, I can't go public with her name without risking a lawsuit, but was encouraged to go ahead and write my book and don't dare let that stop me.)

Well, early this year, I visited her website and guests were praising her and asking where in the world did she get the idea for her book.
I wanted to jump in the screen and say, From me! She got (stole) the idea from me!
And so many fans are saying they can't wait for the sequel and suggesting who should star in the movie.

She has the nerve to have some babble posted on her site about her caring for people and God.

Disgusting.

That did it for me, I'm writing my book and I know that God is with me.

One thing though, I'm paranoid about sharing. I took a writer's workshop and would not use any of my real writing in class because I'm so afraid that someone may steal my ideas and publish them before I get a chance.

I'm even leery about sending it to publishers. What if they say they don't want it, then some experienced writer does the same thing to me again that this person that I admired did?

Anyway, just wanted to get that off of my chest and accept any suggestions.

Thank you for taking the time to read it. It's sincere, not making it up.
I was truly devastated. I still perceive her as a rapist and probably always will.

Cathy C
07-02-2005, 06:25 PM
I'm sorry this happened to you, DonnaReed. But the nice thing is that memoirs are non-fiction, and she wrote a fiction novel. The events in your life were real, and occurred long before she wrote her book. While it's upsetting, it would be best for your peace of mind to let it go, wish her well, and make a million selling your NF book! :)

Chesher Cat
07-02-2005, 10:52 PM
After you finish your memoir I suggest you write an amazing fiction book about an evil writer who steals a story from an innocent newbie writer. The newbie writer gets rightly mad and seeks revenge - how about bamboo shoots under the fingernails or ?? I'm sure you have a long laundry list of the things you wanted to do to her. I say go for it... on the fictional page of course.

bestseller
07-03-2005, 03:45 AM
She has the nerve to have some babble posted on her site about her caring for people and God.

Disgusting.

That did it for me, I'm writing my book and I know that God is with me.


Donna, I'm sorry to hear of your experience. My prayer is that God will heal your hurts and show you how to move on from here. I would say don't let this writer stop you from ever telling your story, 'cause no one can tell it like you can. I think we all, at one time or the other, worry about our idea/work being stolen, but that's a chance we have to take. I would suggest that you check an agent or publisher's credibility before sending anything to them. I used to be intimidated when approaching publishers or agents, but I'm learning to be asertive and not afraid to ask them to produce a list of references when they refuse to list it.

Another thing you may want to do is send a query letter before sending the whole proposal - that way you give a gist of what your story is about without going into details.

We're here for you Donna. Remember, the way to defeat her is to tell your story regardless and show her she didn't triumph in her evil ways. You never know, your true story may run rings around her fiction. Won't that be great!

DonnaReed
07-03-2005, 09:35 AM
Cathy C

Chesher Cat

and


Bestseller


Thanks your very much for your support and encouragement.

I've been writing since February, day and night. I have two chapters done and rough drafts of four with one remaining to go.

I'm ON it.

And I'm gonna work at finding a really good, reputable agent.

I'm working on the proposal now, painstakingly.

*s*

I write a lot then have to edit, edit, edit.

My first two chapters are about 70 pages each, reduced from about 100 each.

And my proposal was about 25, I'm working on getting it down now.

Thanks again!

I'm so happy I stumbled upon this site. I've been online reading from night till morning.

The information is invaluable!

mdmkay
07-03-2005, 10:42 AM
I don't know if this will give you a smile or not but it's going to be a heck of alot easier for you to write a sequel to your book than it will be for her to write one for hers. It's not likely you're going to confide in her what happened next after all..........I can assure that a non-fiction type book like you are going to write will be even better received then a fiction story that some dead-head thought up (stole).........

ritinrider
07-03-2005, 05:38 PM
DonnaReed, you've gotten some great positive reinforcement here. I'm glad to hear you are going ahead and writing your book your way. It's got to be better than hers since you have first hand information and she only had hearsay and she had to invent what she didn't know, whereas yours will be the 'real deal'.

The one thing no one has mentioned is your fear to share your work. Hey, that's a real fear for many writers who haven't had something stolen from them. First I would recommend finding a group you are comfortable with, heck no one in my group would steal my article ideas because they all write fiction and I write nf, and what fiction I do try is miles from what any of them would write. That said, if you're still leery just be choosy about what you read to them. Maybe an excerpt from the middle of the chapter that they couldn't do much with. This way you could get some feedback, and maybe some suggestions on how to improve your writing. Then you could take that sample and apply it to the rest of your book. Just an idea.

Also, you mentioned fearing an editor or publisher could steal your work when you send it to them. I don't know much about the publishing to say anything on that. However, Jenna covered that subject quite well in her book, "Want to Make a Real Living as a Freelance Writer?". If you can get a copy and read even just that section, I think you will feel better.

Good luck with your book.
Nita

WhetherOrNot
07-03-2005, 07:15 PM
This is so interesting. I also sent out a memoir to a number of agents and publishers, some of whom never got back to me. I also took a slice of the memoir and fictionalized it in a story, and sent that out to literary reviews. I was rejected and shelved them both for ten years. Then I dusted off my story, realized it was excellent, and decided to send again. Before I could, my mother phoned to tell me that a famous author had written my story. What!? Impossible. But no. I purchased the author's novella, read it, and then freaked. She added some bizarre elements to it and made it a freaky story, instead of a straight psychological tale. Personally, I like mine better. But the scary part was, key phrasing and word choice were nearly identical. I took paragraphs and sentences from hers and juxtaposed with paragraphs and sentences from mine. I sent them to an fiction editor that I took a workshop with. I asked him if he thought I could still publish my story--after all, I had witnesses who I'd workshopped it with. He said everyone would think I had plagiarized her, and it wasn't worth killing my fledgling career on one story. So, did she see my story and steal it; or, do great minds think alike? In either case, I was screwed. Now I've written a novella that is excellent. I'm paranoid, but I still have to send it out.

Trish

DonnaReed
07-04-2005, 02:58 PM
I don't know if this will give you a smile or not but it's going to be a heck of alot easier for you to write a sequel to your book than it will be for her to write one for hers. It's not likely you're going to confide in her what happened next after all..........I can assure that a non-fiction type book like you are going to write will be even better received then a fiction story that some dead-head thought up (stole).........

I was encouraged by my fomer professor that based on the content the non-fiction, or "real deal" as ritenrider points out, is bound to be more poignant.

Yup...

DonnaReed
07-04-2005, 03:09 PM
This is so interesting. I also sent out a memoir to a number of agents and publishers, some of whom never got back to me. I also took a slice of the memoir and fictionalized it in a story, and sent that out to literary reviews. I was rejected and shelved them both for ten years. Then I dusted off my story, realized it was excellent, and decided to send again. Before I could, my mother phoned to tell me that a famous author had written my story. What!? Impossible. But no. I purchased the author's novella, read it, and then freaked. She added some bizarre elements to it and made it a freaky story, instead of a straight psychological tale. Personally, I like mine better. But the scary part was, key phrasing and word choice were nearly identical. I took paragraphs and sentences from hers and juxtaposed with paragraphs and sentences from mine. I sent them to an fiction editor that I took a workshop with. I asked him if he thought I could still publish my story--after all, I had witnesses who I'd workshopped it with. He said everyone would think I had plagiarized her, and it wasn't worth killing my fledgling career on one story. So, did she see my story and steal it; or, do great minds think alike? In either case, I was screwed. Now I've written a novella that is excellent. I'm paranoid, but I still have to send it out.

Trish

Trish, that's shameful. My heart goes out to you.
Based on what happened to me, I vote theft.


You know, the thought occured to me that some may think that I was prompted to write my memoirs based on her fiction.


I even considered my reaction should the question arise -

sarcastic laugh

rolling my eyes as if to say "get real" and moving on...

mentioning the letter I sent to her so many years ago that coincidentally included some of my story

I'm hoping rather that mine will reduce hers to a watered down version of something very powerful.

I think that rather than sending my proposal to various publishers, I'm going to take the agent route.

I'm working at getting the attention and vote of confidence of one reputable agent.

I don't know how many publishers an agent connects with or sends it to, and I dont' need to tell agent, but my title and chapters will be copyrighted.


Do you know any published writers who can make a referral to a reputable agent for you?

Can you avoid sending it to too many different folks?

I'm not published so I don't know, just brainstorming.

D.J.
07-04-2005, 05:20 PM
DonnaReed, I'm so sorry for this happening to you, but just maybe add that in the book in way not to get sued. That could add more to the difficulties you've gone through in your life. It might just make it all the better. Ask God to lead you. Best wishes!
OH and on a side note, my mother loved Donna Reed the actress and that's why I'm named Donna. How about you?

WhetherOrNot
07-05-2005, 03:41 AM
We can still send stuff out. We just need to get it copyrighted as soon as it's done, I think. I was told that if you fedex to the copyright office, you can use the fedex slip to count toward proof of ownership (it takes them 6 to 8 months to process a copyright). As to agents, I'm seeking one now. I do know someone who's been published, but I can't ask him about his agent because he and I lost touch over the years. I would feel a little exploitative to call him now. As to your memoir, no one will be able to write it just like you will. You can focus on unique aspects of it that the other author couldn't touch on, a completely different angle maybe. Since she doesn't have your words verbatim, you could write and still have a completely new book. Good luck with it!

Trish

Sassenach
07-05-2005, 09:07 PM
I think that rather than sending my proposal to various publishers, I'm going to take the agent route.

I'm working at getting the attention and vote of confidence of one reputable agent.

I don't know how many publishers an agent connects with or sends it to, and I dont' need to tell agent, but my title and chapters will be copyrighted.


Do you know any published writers who can make a referral to a reputable agent for you?

Can you avoid sending it to too many different folks?

I'm not published so I don't know, just brainstorming.

Donna:
I suggest you take the time to educate yourself about the business side of publishing, since your messsage is full of misconceptions.

1. Titles cannot be copyrighted.

2. Many publishers will NOT accept unagented submissions. If you submit directly to them, your ms will be returned.

3. Unless a 'published writer' is your friend and thinks highly of your work, it's a faux pas to ask for an agent referrral.

LiteraryGrace
07-05-2005, 09:42 PM
De-lurking for Donna. I know exactly how you feel with the 'theft' you have encountered. Although I have not experienced this with a memoir I have with artistic works. Specifically I sent a portfolio of images/designs to a well known designer in England. I had called the business, asked who to address such work to, sent it Fed Ex and had receipts with employees signatures on the delivery receipt and everything. Two years later my artistic "concepts & ideas" were on her handbags, scarves etc. This is a designer who could well afford to have been honest and purchased my work.

Long story short I contacted an attorney and basically the "big designer" really knew how to take my work and change it around enough to not be sued. I did recently see an article of Q&A with her and she also mentioned God and spirituality. I almost barfed up my last meal. Gag.

Incredibly frustrating.

About your note that you wrote to her...do you still have a copy of it as well as her response? If you do I'd contact an attorney....at the very least have a letter sent by a legal professional to let her know she did not get away with a darn thing. You'll not get to see her reaction, but I'm certain she'd panick....imagine her initial reaction that all of her "fans" might find out she's a fraud....not to mention an uncreative thief.

Yes, it will cost a few hundred dollars but it's worth it. If you supplied her with any other ideas from you note to her no doubt she will be too afraid to use them as well.

Hope all that makes sense & best of luck to you!

MacAllister
07-05-2005, 10:50 PM
Specifically I sent a portfolio of images/designs to a well known designer in England. I had called the business, asked who to address such work to, sent it Fed Ex and had receipts with employees signatures on the delivery receipt and everything. Two years later my artistic "concepts & ideas" were on her handbags, scarves etc. This is a designer who could well afford to have been honest and purchased my work.
I can understand how that would be frustrating and crazy-making...however, it's once again a case of needing to know the way the industry works.

I can actually speak to this situation with some experience in the industry--I spent too much time out of my life writing catalog and ad copy for a sportswear company.

The rag industry is highly competitive, terribly fast-paced, and ruthlessly cut-throat. Legally speaking, all anyone has to do is change a pattern by 10% or more and it counts as a new pattern. That's the actual PATTERN...not a design, which is essentially an idea, and little more.

This actually benefits the industry as a whole (even though it seems like blatant swiping of designs--and it IS, really.) because this is how you can buy a jacket in Target for $20 that's nearly identical to the $150 Patagonia version.

People in the industry accept this without blinking. If you come up with something good, you can COUNT on it being knocked off by ten other companies, inside of a few months. In fact, you sort of hope it is, as long as you can stay out on the leading edge. That's how you become an industry leader.

The real work involved is in the construction of the garment--patterning, fitting, sizing, tweaking for perfection--the steps to make an idea into a real article of clothing, or accessory.

Similarly, the value of a book is in the construction: the writing, rewriting, editing, etc.

Without that effort to turn a concept into a finished product, the concept is worth little.

veinglory
07-05-2005, 10:56 PM
Personally I just see this as adding a great chapter to your book. Don't accuse the author of anything just print your letter to her and the synopsis of her later book. It'll bring your book some publicity ;)

LiteraryGrace
07-05-2005, 11:26 PM
MacAllister,

I realize you are correct in what you have stated about the industry being face-paced and how it works.

But I must disagree on two points:

1) It is one thing to rip-off a desinger/writer/musician who has made big bucks and put their work out into the public. It makes sense they would expect to be copied and stay cutting edge that way. HOWEVER, it is another situation entirely for one of those "cutting-edge" desingers to steal from an individual who they have agreed to accept work from. Not that I'm saying it's not dog eat dog, but that really puts them out there for legal ramifications later on and it's one thing to be in the spotlight as "cutting-edge" yet another to get named publicly if a legal suit is filed. That's not cutting edge, that's detrimental to their company reputation. Of course, as I found it's very difficult and expensive to prove, and of course they know that.

2) You said a 'concept' is of little value without a finished product. I disagree in regard to the clothing industry. Designers send their minions out en masse to..... flea markets, antique markets, vintage stores, ebay....anything to find that "original" concept so they can be "cutting edge" next season. Yes, they take that concept and turn it into a finished product, but without it they have nothing to work with in the first place.

From what Donna said about her memoir, the big famous writer took her concept and without that sounding board would have had nothing in her own head to write her book from....

Respectfully,
Grace

diskrybe
07-07-2005, 04:07 PM
DonnaReed, Im so sorry this had to happen to you. I have a suggestion though, for a slight attitude shift -- move beyond the rage and the hurt and sift through the ashes of this experience to recreate yourself and your writing. I read a great commencement address by Steve Jobs of Apple computers. It's a contemporary parable about how life's low blows may actually punch a portal for you to enter a new phase, a new arena. I'd be glad to email it to you if you wish. Also, know that your experience is not the first and it may not be the last. In this age of email and anonymity, one is lucky to even *know* that one's ideas and words were ripped off. I do a lot of my writing on online forums. Sometimes people ask for my permission to quote me in an article -- I have no way of knowing how many of them dont bother, particularly when a forum has international participants. A couple of times, though, Ive been told by an online acquaintance that they have seen my ideas repeated in other forums. Ive learned over time to become resigned to this happening as the price of online interactions and the stimulation it provides. Let me just add though -- the next time you submit an original idea to someone for approval make sure that person is not the only one who knows that you are the author. All the best.

Xavier Kobel
07-11-2005, 01:27 AM
Donna, I feel what the un-named author has done is immoral and reprehensible! Stealing your idea, and developing it solo.

She should have collaborated with you, naming you as a contributer. Even if it evolved into a fictional work loosely based on events, and people you provided her.

I am in edit phase of my completed first novel. Hungry to find out if it is worthy of continuing to edit, and pursue publication. Or drop it and move onto developing my next idea, I posted the prologue and first three chapters for review at: http://writing.com/authors/jimmg

The reviews have been very positive with an average rating of 4 out of 5 stars and almost 200 readers so far! Of course I am totally stoked, editing with newly found vigor.

The point of this reply, I was terrified to post, or share. I still have reservations if the decision was the right one. I imagine how I would freak if I were in your situation.

Anyway, one safegaurd I took was to mail a copy of the rough draft via USPS to myself. It remains sealed and dated, so if it were to happen, at least I have some shred of evidence that I am the originator of this work.

Donna, my heart goes out to you! This author should be nothing less than ashamed of herself. My advice for vengance, quietly share her name via private emails to all that respond to this forum post. Let the word spread to everyone else in their address book. Silent vengance at best, but booksales and popularity for this witch, should be affected.

Best of luck with your work! Email me once you get it finished, I will check it out.

Jim G
AKA: Xavier Kobel

MOON GODDESS
08-03-2005, 12:02 AM
Sorry for what happened to you, Donna Reed. It's scary to think even "names" and editors will stoop to stealing someone else's ideas, but it happens.
Don't feel bad. It's happened to others, myself included.
Ideas can't be copyrighted, so they are fair game.
Maybe next time, you should finish your work first, and then have it officially copyrighted through the Library of Congress. I sometimes have my things notarized at various stages, just for proof that it is my work.
Unfortunately, it seems the only way to keep things from being stolen, is to keep your work to yourself until it is completed. That is what I do anymore. It's sad to have to be that way, but unfortunately, it's necessary.
P.S. I thought Chester Cat's ? suggestion was hilarious.

Epicman
08-18-2005, 02:43 PM
Donna I am so sorry to hear this. Try this for your current works - Here is what I do. I make sure that I at least have an outline, slightly modified title, and the drafts of the first three and last chapters of any book before I submit to anyone. I do this because that is what most of them ask for anyway. I put that in a binder and put a label on the cover and send it with $30 to the US copyright office return receipt. Although it takes several months you are protected the day they receive it. Then submit away without fear. When you finish the work send it again in ms form - but with the correct title - to the copyright office. That is the reason for the modified title on the first submission so you are not submitting the same title twice. This way anything you send to anyone is copyrighted legally. The old mail it to yourself or poor mans copyright is not valid by the way.

Hope this helps

Epicman

reph
08-19-2005, 12:18 PM
Anyway, one safegaurd I took was to mail a copy of the rough draft via USPS to myself. It remains sealed and dated, so if it were to happen, at least I have some shred of evidence that I am the originator of this work.
This has been discussed on the Novel Writing forum. I'm sorry to tell you that it doesn't work: it won't hold up in court. For one thing, it's too easy to fake. A writer could mail himself an empty envelope and fill it later.

Xavier Kobel
08-20-2005, 01:16 PM
This has been discussed on the Novel Writing forum. I'm sorry to tell you that it doesn't work: it won't hold up in court. For one thing, it's too easy to fake. A writer could mail himself an empty envelope and fill it later.

I wasn't aware the discussion has taken place prior. To be clear, the USPS issue has been clarified as valid with a lawyer.

At his suggestion, I shrunk my MS to 4 pages to 1 version printed. Cutting the size from 350+ printed pages to around 80. The MS weighed, postage marked, dated, and sealed tight unable to be tampered with easily. I requested a signature card ensuring delivery of the package to myself. It sucked cause I had to go to the post office to sign for and pick it up.

Long story short. I have the signed card, the original postage receipt, and the still sealed USPS cardboard packet containing my work. Not to mention the origination date of the word document.

Proof, proof, and more...The judge breaks the seal on the package himself to reveal the true originator of the MS.

Prove me wrong.

veinglory
08-20-2005, 10:07 PM
Your lawyer is behind the times. I will try and find a good link to show it.

MacAllister
08-20-2005, 10:12 PM
http://www.snopes.com/legal/postmark.asp

Easy.

veinglory
08-20-2005, 10:21 PM
Note that PMC is emphatically worthless in the US and only 'probably' worthless in other countries where registration is not required for litigation.

Xavier Kobel
08-21-2005, 06:20 AM
Geeze, vien you're right! I was running on some old information. I called the lawyer friend and he confirmed. It was years ago that we spoke of my desire to write novels when the information was given. The subject has never come up again.

This proabably isn't the forum to veer off the original subject, but as long as we are on it. I wonder how effective the copyright offered by the writing community where I have the first few chapters posted is from a legal standpoint.