Monday, December 07, 2009

Adeline's Apology

One sad story came to light a few days ago. Yusof Martin sent me a copy of two PDF files. One of Adeline Lee's piece Define Happiness from her first collection, Lethal lessons and Other Stories the other of a piece called Happiness by Sarah Provencal from Chicken Soup for the Teenager's Soul IV. The similarities between the two could not be written off to coincidence.

Raman had already discovered two weeks previously and had destroyed all copies of the book. (His note about it is on the main page of his website.) Adeline has written an apology which is now up on the Silverfish website. If you bought the book and want your money back, then you can contact her for a refund.

My sadness is actually threefold. I feel very sorry for the publisher who took a risk on a new writer that he saw a great deal of potential in.

Secondly, although Adeline did something wrong and unbelievably stupid, she is just 18 and this is a tragic way for a writing career to end even before it has begun. She does have talent and I hope that she is able to pick herself up and keep writing ... and eventually regain our trust.

Thirdly, I am so sad that this disease of appropriating someone else's material and passing it off as your own is so widespread in Malaysian society. What really can be done about it? Isn't this something that schools and other educational instituions should really be drumming into kids?

In this case the situation has been handled entirely appropriately. Don't we wish that these people (here and here) had had the guts to make the public apology they owed us? Shouldn't that infamous poetry book have been withdrawn and pulped?

Postscript :

It is a hard lesson to learn. Nevertheless, stealing other people’s written work is no less a crime than stealing their mobile phone, car or any other materialistic appendage you care to name. The more serious crime, I believe, is the ethical crime involved with plagiarising; the lack of thought that taking another person’s creative endeavour, publishing it as one’s own, gaining plaudits for it, might be wrong.
See Yusof Martin's take on the affair. The picture of the extracts from the two books comes from his blog.


Poppadumdum said...

Her apology seems to say "I'm sorry for being caught out." And it also gives the impression that it's also her story which appeared in Chicken Soup...

Buddhaphish said...

I agree with Poppa, the apology seems.. lacking.. her mistake was not telling Raman?? Nothing about remorse of trying to pass the story as hers?

I do pity the poor thing though. I remember reading an article on her and how she wanted to publish a book before she turned 20 or something like that. Guess the pressure got to her, and I hope she learnt her lesson. Maybe she can turn this fiasco into a book :)

Chet said...

It sounds to me like she wanted to share the story, but forgot to credit the original writer. But a book is not a blog, you don't share other people's work in a book. You need permission to reprint, you can't just link to the original story like you can in a blog. So even if she had credited the original writer in the book, her publisher would've gotten into trouble for copyright infringement.

katztales said...

Oh boy how awfully embarrassing and humiliating for her and her publisher and her supporters.

One of my fears is that I'll read a turn of phrase and use it weeks/months/years later as my own without realising it was someone else's. In fact, I have at times checked Google to see if something that sounds a little too elegant is a quote. So far OK but touching wood...

Kak Teh said...

yes, I met the young lass at Raman's writing workshop early this year. I remember secretly envying her when i was told her book was coming out. Well, I hope she recovers from this sad episode.

Ee Leen Lee said...

For the sake of her publisher and readers who feel shortchanged, I hope she wrote her own apology!

Buddhaphish said...

katztales, I hear you... I've written short stories that I felt quite proud of, only to reread months later and go oh shit, this sounds awfully like... [short story/movie that I've read in the past and remained in my subconscious]. Writing groups are helpful to make sure that there is no unintentional plagiarism!

TTE said...


Damyanti said...

This is sad. That someone so young should choose the wrong route is doubly so.

I hope she chooses to learn from this

BorneoExpatWriter said...

I got pulled into this also, thanks to Yusuf, which I appreciated, and once I had the proof, both versions, identical, I immediately contacted Raman, as a friend, and asked him to make this public as soon as possible, before everyone else did on their blogs since a lot of people already knew something was up, and many knew who had done it. It had already been two weeks since the publisher knew, which we were all surprised to hear, but it was being delayed for a good reason.

Having attended Adeline’s launch at Silverfish on one of visit’s to KL and having my own concerns of rushing unproven authors (with no or minimal track records) into a book, which I've spoken before about here and on my own blog, I'm not totally surprised. Rushing to come up with more stories for a book that’s eagerly waiting by the publisher to publish, people start to take short cuts. Desperate students (far too many) do it near the end of semester when assignments are due and time is running out.

It seems idiotic to plagiarize one story in a collection and from Chicken Soup for the Soul! Why bother? So the question must now be raised, what about the other stories? Every single one of them is now suspect. Are any of them wholly original? Where’s the proof?

My biggest concern is that this incident, as earlier cases, will be whitewashed with the typical, what to do attitude, no real crime committed here, everyone does this sort of thing, lecturers, professors included, just an oversight, sorry-lah, I meant to give the author credit, but, well, I clean forgot! Just slipped my mind!

I feel for her, too, but this was blatant lift by someone who is young but rather smart, and she deliberately passed it off as her own work. She lied to the publisher. It’s stated right in the contract, that the work is solely her own. She lied to her readers, as well as family and friends. All of us, who sat at her launch, and those at other readings, were taken in. We sang her praise (or whoever really wrote what she read). So did the press.

How many other writers young and old will do the same, if they feel they can get away with it? Even if they do get caught, it’s merely a mild rebuke; instead of outrage, we deliver sympathy. Oh, she’s so young and talented. Let’s give her another chance.

Everyone wants to be published author, but too few want to spend the years learning the craft. Shortcuts abound – snippets here and there on the internet, from obscure magazines or books published in other countries. It will happen again.

I’m sorry it had to happen to Raman, because he has helped plenty of writers to publish their short stories in his Silverfish New Writing series and his other books. But it will happen again and again, unless writers and readers and publishers work together and nip it at the bud.

Instead of saying, oh, I don’t want to get involved, raise those red flags when you have the evident, especially in a case like this. It’s the whole piece, not just a paragraph or a cool turn of phrase, but the entire work!

First contact the writer/publisher. Don’t blog or facebook or twitter about it unless all the facts are in – you can do more damage than good and can open yourself to a lawsuit. Follow Sharon’s example. Once the facts – the admittance of guilt by the author/publisher – is published, then spread it around to deter those who are considering doing the same. Make them think twice. They will be found out, eventually. We won’t take it any more!

Made them earn their praise the right way by writing their own original story. They’ll be so glad they did. They will feel proud, too. It’s a great feeling having your own work published. Let’s encourage other writers to have that same feeling too!

bibliobibuli said...

sorry TTE - was that a comment or a pregnant pause?

Robert - which begs the question what would you have done to her beyond having her book pulped and having to financially compensate the publisher and public? hang draw and quarter her publicly? cover her in tar and feathers and send her out into the streets with her book tied round her neck? (oh dear sorry, imagination ...)

sure the act was morally repugnant - it totally agree - and will taint her future writing career. if more than one story was plagiarised then it makes no odds, ONE story was enough to necessitate action. part of a story would have been enough.

Amir Muhammad said...

I still like most of the stories in the book (I wrote the first review!) and will hold on to my copy! Sure, she behaved badly, but we all know of bad girls (and boys) who turned into very interesting writers. I'd still read her next book; I'd take reckless sass over pale pedantry anytime.

Damyanti said...

Reckless sass is better than pale pedantry, as long as the work is not stolen.

Why should one author work his or her ass off, and another get all the credit and adulation?

She says: "I did not in any way intend to deceive my readers, as at that point of time I liked the story so much that I thought that I would like to share it with my readers."

This writer can't be covered in tar and feather, but let's hope she knows that this wasn't a blog post she was writing, in which she excerpted someone and forgot to mention it. It was a book.

And even a plagiarized blog post ain't such a good thing.

BorneoExpatWriter said...

Sharon, No of course not! Did I sound that harsh? Perhaps one too many students doing the same thing! My apologies. I wrote it in a hurry. Just don't want others to think, oh well, nothing serious happened, so maybe I'll try to do the same but be more clever and not get caught!

As you stated it's "widespread in Malaysian society". Just don't want it to spread even wider, since lots of locals publishers are openly soliciting local writers -- which is good, but can be problematic if short cuts, even for "noble reasons" are taken at the expense of other writers.

Adeline will bounce back and may be the better writer for it. She has her supporters, which is good for her. But I'd hate to have her feel like she got away with a mild reprimand. Besides, is she paying for it or her parents? Hopefully she'll pay them back!

Again, as others have pointed out this is not blog post, but a book with a signed contract stating the work is original. Is it true she's studying law, or is that just an ironic rumor?

Just glad it's out in the open, and hope Adeline has the courage to take responsibility for her own actions. Some advice for her: this too shall pass. And keep a diary so she can write about it all later...all the best, but, Adeline, please learn from this!

bibliobibuli said...

yeah you did sound harsh. :-D though there are time when i have felt like doing all those things to my own students. (the worst was one who plagiarised a whole dissertation!)

i think she is bound to be feeling a great deal of humiliation, especially as her friends must know, and she will be having to constantly explain why after the big debut with articles in the press, there is no longer any book.

it's punishment enough, i'd say.

the website "famous plagiarists" had a colour code system, red for writers who they reckoned would plagiarise again, down to green for one time offenders who wouldn't. i'd hope that Adeline is in that latter category now.

Ee Leen Lee said...

How could Adeline sit there during the book launch(and I was there too), fielding questions and comments (some from her OWN PUBLISHER!) pertaining to work that is not her own? Without the slightest iota of guilt or awareness that it was wrong? It's spinechilling.

poppadumdum said...

I can understand how cheated you feel, Ee Leen Lee!

poppadumdum said...


You said "I'd take reckless sass over pale pedantry anytime." -

Will you still consider me sassy if I plagiarise your books and stories? I'm coming out with a Malaysian Queer Anthology called Body2Body. That's okay right? I'll just use all the stories in your anthology and call them mine.
Now THAT's sassy!!!

Sad-eline, it's okay to steal from Amir's stories!


Ee Leen Lee said...

@ Poppadumdum:

Cheated? Not really, more like extremely appalled that some blips or warnings failed to show up on Adeline's moral and ethical radar.

As a writer, it really makes a joke out of other honest, original and hardworking writers. Imagine if such a plagiarism scandal had hit the recent MPH-Alliance Bank National Short Story Contest?

Tarred and feathered? At the very least, named and shamed...

poppadumdum said...

Ee Leen Lee,

Yup, appalled is a better description!

I agree about the naming and shaming bit. What is sadder is that the 'reworked' version was so much more badly written compared to the original: "Hair plastered over her brow"..."I sighed impatiently..." etc'd think if someone wanted to 'share' the original he/she would have improved it, made it better...

But I guess it was so much more fun to play the published author, dispensing worldly advice, doing readings, signing books...basking in the envy of others...Mummy and Daddy must be so proud..."Meet my child, the plagiarist."

Amir Muhammad said...

>...basking in the envy of others...

That's the operative phrase right there, isn't it? That there are some people who can be envious even of a local book that couldn't sell even a thousand copies. So when a teenager makes an extremely bad call, it's time to give vent to all those years of pent-up resentment :-)

I've never met Adeline (although it seems like I missed a really crowded launch!) but can't anyone else see how her apology delightfully invokes the feel of the William Carlos Williams poem "This is Just to Say"? (But before people get all excited again, I don't mean that she used the same words!) This is a consciousness more fascinating than mere adult finger-wagging.

I have seen my own films being pirated from Beijing to Jakarta (go on, be envious!), so I know very well that theft can be a compliment :-)

Damyanti said...

Piracy is not the same as plagiarism. In writerly terms, piracy hurts the publishers/ distributors, plagiarism also hurts the original author directly.

None of them are commendable acts, but there is a clear difference.

I'm not sure there is any adult finger-wagging going on...the age of the writer just makes people sad that this country might be unwittingly providing the environment where a 17-yr old is led to plagiarise.

Personally, I've just been writing for about two years, so no, there is no envy, or years of pent-up resentment :). I feel honing one's writing is so much more important than rushing to publish.

I do not know Amir or Adeline, was never at the launch, and I'm just plain sad that this writer felt compelled to do this for whatever reason. I hope she learns from the experience, and goes on to become a good writer.

BorneoExpatWriter said...

Yes, Amir, the launch was big because we were all attending Silverfish's 10th Anniversary and we were all ushered into a room where Adeline held court and Raman sang her praises. There were many distinguished, talented writers present, some with several books already published and others in the works.

Yes, appalled is a good word. Outaged! Envy, no! We all seemed to be genuinely happy, impressed, perhaps even wondering or wishing we had started to write a lot sooner. A decade would pass before I felt the urge. At the time though, at the launch, it seemed too good to be true. A young talented writer beyond her years. Turns out that it was.

I remember reading you Amir in the NST when you were that young. You were the real deal. You established a track record which we could follow. Adeline seemed to come out of no place, way too fast, with a book. Hmmm. There's a lesson here for publishers...

poppadumdum said...


Your movies were pirated but the pirates still credited you as producer/writer/whatever. If they were sold as someone else's films? Will that still be fine? I'll make DVD copies of your film, put my name as director on it, obliterate all traces of your name, and call me SASSY! Recklessly sassy! And you'll still be buying my works in future too! Thanks!

poppadumdum said...

And oh, Amir, I wrote this review of Adeline's book, for Malay Mail:

Adeline Lee is not the first teenager to publish a book this year. A few weeks ago we talked of Nik Nur Mahidah, also 18, who shared her spiritual and motivational tips on how we can, like her, get 20As for SPM.

(What happened to all the boys? Are they all wannabe rempit and ah long who aren’t interested in the written word? There’s just no hope for some folks, I tell ya.)

Aside from their age and the determination that these two self-possessed young women display, I wonder if there are any other resemblances? The story in Lethal Lesson that reminded me most of Nik Nur Madihah’s memoir is “A Father’s Love,” because the titular parent happens to be a fisherman as well. But Lee’s is a slightly darker vision: the father is a compulsive gambler who thinks that education is wasted on mere girls.

Lee’s book is fiction rather than fact, and since I don’t know her I can’t presume to know how much is autobiographical. But this is a wonderfully assured debut.

I was a little wary of the first story, “I love you grandma.” A 91-year old reminisces about her life, but isn’t it odd that she describes cinema buildings of the 1940s as being ‘old and dilapidated’? Surely they seem so now, but wouldn’t they have been brand-new then? Ah, but she’s on her deathbed, so maybe the medication is doing things to her.

A much more successful grandma’s-eye story is “Belonging Somewhere,” which might just be the strongest piece here. A different old woman (albeit a sprightlier 82) was born in China and came to Malaya decades ago, but still finds it hard to adapt. She’s aghast at the way her granddaughter “used to speak Hokkien, but the dialect has slowly disappeared from her vocabulary, like colour fading from a frequently washed shirt.”

Against the inflammatory and politically bankrupt rhetoric of kaum pendatang, this story brings to vivid life, with well-rounded characters, the hard choices and compromises that have been made by all of us. The story is also significant for being the only one with a supporting character who is not Chinese: the old woman’s daughter is dating someone named Kassim. (I don’t know if Lee consciously chose this name to evoke the film Ibu Mertuaku, where another Kassim didn’t get along with his mother-in-law either, but with more tragic results).

Many of the stories take place in Ipoh (where Lee lives), but this isn’t the multiracial milieu of Yasmin Ahmad’s films or Lat’s Town Boy. In that sense, it does bear a striking resemblance to the exclusive ethnic enclave of Nik Nur Madihah’s Kelantan.

Another of my favourites is “Imaginary”, an old-fashioned ghost story that evokes The Turn of the Screw. The chills and familial tensions are superbly controlled; I can see the J-horror remake right now.

Most of the stories are very much grounded in the realism of multi-generational families. Only a couple, like “Mermaid” and the title story “Lethal Lesson” push forth into more fanciful territory; the former has a scaly creature much less lovely than Maya Karin in Duyung, and the latter has girl assassins!

I think she evokes various situations pretty well, but the stories of school have a particular resonance. Her school-going protagonists don’t have much luck: she ranges from fat and dangerous (”The evil one”) to being mildly insecure at not getting straight As (“The Score”). I don’t know if reading Nik Nur Madihah’s book would help them, though.

Lee can also portray something that not many writers, of any age, can do well: happiness. A teenager being nice to a neglected man in an old folks’ home, or a young mother speaking to her infant (who chooses to “look silly” only when a snootily judgemental adult visits), a moth being set free – these are the colours we should celebrate.

The fact that she injects these little shots of happiness without too much sentimentality is already a gift. But her palette is richer than that. To use a reference from before her time: The future’s so bright, she’s gotta wear shades.

composer said...

Totally off-topic, but is it me or is the apology not altogether grammatically correct?

(Given the situation, this is a tiny thing to pick on, I know, but there was so much praise floating around I guess I was expecting more even though I haven't read the book myself - and never will now)


Amir Muhammad said...


I hope Malay Mail paid you more for your review (which is brilliantly written, by the way) than it did for mine!

Since we're all readers here, let's start discussing that Borges story about the man (no, not the expected man) who wrote "Don Quixote" ;-)

Greetings from Jakarta!

poppadumdum said...

Hi Amir!

No, Malay Mail wasn't happy. They said I lacked originality and sass. And that I stole the last sentence "The future's so bright..." from a pop song by a band called Timbuk 3.

I had to admit that it's such a hackneyed my other favourite "I heard it through the grapevine" or "Kingdom come." God knows what made me use such a sentence...

I must also admit it's one of my more dashed-out works...

Borges? Is that the same Anthony Borges who wrote The Malaysian Thrillogy?


Preets said...

Hang on hang on: Amir, do you REALLY think this is not a big deal, or are you just trying to be provocative? Because as others have pointed out, there are some crucial differences between plagiarism and piracy. I think it's a pity that Adeline was pressured (or pressured herself) to meet meaningless goals. Surely what you do and how you do it matters more than doing it before you're 18 (or 21, or 25). But oh well. I'm sure she's learned her lesson but the question is what she can do now that she's learned it.

I love that Borges story -- it's one of his most absurd (and that's saying a lot). I think it's called Pierre Menard and I haven't read it in years but I remember doing a double take when I got to the line that explained that this man was not translating or copying out or rewriting Don Quixote but *writing* it. Heheh. Are you suggesting that Adeline was doing something similar? Having the original thoughts that led to the writing of Chicken Soup for the Teenage Soul?

Ee Leen Lee said...

Borges? Aren't they those hive-minded cyborgs in Star Trek who like to declare that resistance is futile? ;P

Ahh I see: so according to some of the previous posts on this thread, maybe Adeline Lee was in fact trying to pull off a whole postmodern, recursive, meta-fictional stunt?

Well in that case, fail. Epic fail...

poppadumdum said...

Will really think twice before buying or reading anything written by her again. And will make sure my friends know about it...

Don't know which blog I read about this as well but the question was asked why no Malaysian writers have been plagiarised by another Malaysian writer (so far) - perhaps one reason is, it's easier to be found out!

Ee Leen Lee said...

thanx for posting the picture , Sharon.

OMG, it's virtually a word-for-word lift

ericlow said...

hmmm, wow. was this book even edited/vetted/read through? if so, who was the editor? not catching the plagiarism is understandable, but accepting/liking the chicken soup-ish trashy writing means someone's taste and judgment in writing is seriously in need of a tuneup. i read elsewhere that writer in question was highly praised, i wonder if those who praised actually bothered to read through the book, and if so, that itself speaks volumes about their own standards.

reading before praising and publishing, that used to be given.

Fadz said...

In this post, we have seen two of the things Malaysians are really good at:

1. Piracy/plagiarism
2. Condemning others

True, what Adeline did was atrocious. She took a story and passed it off as her own. But we're talking about an anthology here. Everyone is so pent up condemning her for that one story she plagiarized that you forget she has written other stories in there. Did she plagiarize them all? Maybe, maybe not. Point is, she's written and published an English anthology at 18. That deserves praise and encouragement.

You want to blame the editors and publishers. You cannot expect everyone to read and remember every story ever written.

However, especially with an anthology by one author, his particular style of writing will be noticeable. That's how I know how my friends cut-and-paste their presentations anyway, by the alternating excellent and appalling English. If that particular story reads differently than others Adeline wrote, then that story should be suspect. If it reads the same, no one can blame the publishers.

Are you saying that from now on, every story submitted for a competition and/or publication should be counter-checked, should be treated with suspicion?

Come on. She did a big mistake. She has paid for it by the public humiliation and by her books being snuffed before they could breathe. That's punishment enough (unless, of course, there's an impending lawsuit). Your condemning her is not helping anyone. Not Adeline, not yourselves.

I for one would have loved to buy her anthology (as I do with other Malaysian/Singaporean-English anthologies) and read the book, study it for my own future publishing effort. She's 18. She has a book out! I started writing at 16, and when I look at those stories, I can't help but cringe. I know I have improved much, but at 28, I still haven't made myself a print-published author.

Having a QLRS-published story is opening doors, though. So don't you guys go thinking I plagiarize stories when/if I get a book out. God knows people don't believe I wrote the stories I wrote.

"This Malay kid writes English stories? I don't believe."

That's what I get all the time. Only, I'm now too old to be called a kid. Hmm...older patients still call me a kid and ask for my age every time they see me, though (that's a different matter).

Are you going to condemn others without actually reading their book(s) through? Are you going to stop Adeline's future publications, or treat them like they're anthrax-laced?

I think Amir shows wisdom in 'making light' this debacle. A Malaysian author has published an English anthology. An 18-year-old Malaysian author. Why not celebrate that fact? Why not look at the positive instead of all this negativity?

poppadumdum said...

The reactions of most of the commentators here are not based on vindictiveness I feel, but arise from the feeling that our trust has been flung back into our faces. When we engage with a writer via his/her works, we enter into a relationship which is based on respect and trust - the writer should respect the reader's intelligence and the reader trusts that the work is the result of the writer's original efforts.

A writer who seems precocious enough to write a collection of stories and have them published is not ignorant of the moral and legal and ethical issues involved in a case of plagiarism. To proceed nevertheless and to wilfuly deceive his/her readers is to mock them, mock their trust, their intelligence, their money, their time, their well-wishes for the writer's future success. And then to come out with a pathetic excuse of an 'apology' is to spit in the faces of readers. "I like the story so much I want to share it." Well, honey, then read aloud the original while standing on a soapbox in a pasar malam and acknowledge the author. But DON'T
pass it off as your own tale and tell us to believe your moronic excuse. Expecting us to believe that is an insult to everyone's intelligence.

Even if the other stories are good, they will always be tainted with the "what if" when we read them: "what if this is also stolen from somewhere?"

These are some of the many reasons why I will not read her work again in future. Amir's reaction may have been wise, but I'll wait his reaction when he finds out someone has plagiarised his works.

poppadumdum said...

...and I doubt I'd be quite so forgiving as some of the commentators here, if my own work had been plagiarised. "Oh gee, she stole my short story, but the other stories are sill good. They're still good."

poppadumdum said...

I forgot to add that the person who has emerged from this whole sorry mess is the publisher, who has shown a lot of integrity and backbone. Malaysian politicians should learn from him.

Ee Leen Lee said...

@ Fadz

You've actually hit the nail on the head when you wrote:

"So don't you guys go thinking I plagiarize stories when/if I get a book out. God knows people don't believe I wrote the stories I wrote"

No one ever wants to be called into question about the authenticity of their creative works. If you think the reactions have been rather harsh ,well imagine if more Malaysian writers were discovered to be plagiarists like Adeline (and Sharon has highlighted a few more culprits elsewhere on her blog.) The local Malaysian writing community is still rather small, so a few rotten apples would tend to spoil it for the others.

You also wrote, "A Malaysian author has published an English anthology. An 18-year-old Malaysian author. Why not celebrate that fact? Why not look at the positive instead of all this negativity?"

Trust me, I was there at Adeline's booklaunch- it was full of positivity-people were lauding and congratulating her achievements. There was no envy or negativity at that event. Read Adeline's press interviews, her face and name were in the papers. Silverfish had yet another promising writer under its wings.

Fadz said...

Well, my sister is a mommy-blogger (, and another mommy-blogger had plagiarized her blog, copying and pasting her posts verbatim, only adding 'hehehe' or 'bleh tak?' or something like that, intermittently between the pasted posts.

She was furious.

And this is what I said to her: people read her blog, people love it. Some love it so much that, but have not the capacity to express like my sister does, take the easy way and plagiarize her posts. Of course it's odd to copy-and-paste another woman's pregnancy symptoms and cravings (I wonder if the plagiarizer understood everything my sister wrote in the first place), as well as another mother's hopes for her unborn child, but she should take it as a compliment. The best form of compliment is imitation, right?

Of course, if my stories get stolen and are sold under a different name, I would be pissed. But I would also know the real author of those works. I would know my works are good enough to be published. I will always be able to come up with stories of similar -- and perhaps of better -- quality. The plagiarizer unfortunately can't. He depended on other people's creativity and intellect to pass off as a better person. He can't produce more on his own.

That's how I see it, and that's what I told my sister. She's still pissed about it, but she's moved on, and is currently writing a brilliant blog (I close an eye at the typos and grammatical errors though).

You can be pissed your work gets stolen, or you can beam with pride. People love what you have produced. You can also make money out of it from a hefty lawsuit. Your original work (in digital form) has a time stamp on it. That's why I save my revisions in a different file.

See, you can always, always choose to look for that small patch of clear sky during the monsoon.

I do understand the feeling of betrayal, especially since you read the anthology and published a review on it. You advertised the work, and now you feel unclean. I would too. Imagine what writing communities from other countries would think of Malaysian authors, with plagiarism scandals popping up one after another. People would think we're hacks.

But what you're implying can be likened to 'once a convict, always a convict', or HIV-infected drug abusers not deserving proper medical care because they brought it upon themselves. I'm not putting words in your mouth (God knows I hate it when people do that to me), but it looks like you won't consider Adeline learning from her mistake and emerging a better person, a better writer.

It's easy for us to wag fingers and tsk about, saying, "Hah! I knew there's something fishy about this. An 18-year-old, publishing an anthology. What does she know about writing?" But she did wrong with one story. She must have written the rest (at least I hope she did). Talent is still talent. It needs nurturing for it to bloom. You've all slapped her hand, spanked her bottom with a thick rotan. Why not give her a second chance, nurture her, make her experience going through this public humiliation a lesson to all.

If you squash her now, it's going to be one less Malaysian-English writer out there in the world, and frankly, we can't afford that. We need all the talent we can get.

Goran said...

I cant say i know what was going through Adeline Lee's mind when she did what she did. But I do know that she never had the intention to copy a story and pass it as her own. There is only two types of people who would intentionally do such a thing.
1. An idiot
2. A selfish deceitful foolish individual

I have been lucky enough to have met her and I can guarantee she is neither. I think it is blindly obvious that a mistake was made. I hope Adeline is doing ok and wishes her all the best in the future.

Chet said...


Is that copycat mummy still plagiarising your sister's blog? Please post the URL here, and I will go and post comments.

bibliobibuli said...

well, Goran, destroying your own opportunities, making everyone around you lose faith in you, destroying the trust of someone who has championed you, leaving yourself open to a major international lawsuit. well, it ain't so sensible is it? "idiot" is quite a good word, under the circumstances (though i hestitated to use it). mitigated in part by her youth and obvious naivety.

but she is too young to have everything fall down around her ears and hope she weathers this and finds new creative outlets for her considerable talent. i wish her well too.

Amir Muhammad said...

Is it true that this was discovered by a women's reading club in Ipoh? I wanna meet them! And not just because I wanna see if they all look like Jessica Fletcher ;-)

bibliobibuli said...

i believe so Amir, and a switched on lot they must be. the message was conveyed to the wider world by Yusof Martin.

Amir Muhammad said...

Speaking of good old Yusuf, isn't he lucky that Mohd Najib Ahmad Dawa didn't sue him for libel over this? ;-)

bibliobibuli said...

eeleen sent me this by email and i thought it interesting :

"I would also like to draw your attention to the following:

In Adeline's story, there is this short paragraph on page 22 of the PDF file, near the top of the page:

'How can I, Miss Negative, write something about happiness? Maybe I'll find an article on the Internet and copy it. No one will know where it comes from. I'm sure my old, outdated teacher would not know if I did that."

Now, if that is not a statement of intent, I don't know what is. It is the only original paragraph of text that was inserted into the plagiarized text.

It's really quite interesting: she referred to plagiarism while plagiarizing the story she'd written. If this was her attempt at being postmodern and metafictional, I'd pat her on the back. But I doubt it , hahahah."

poppadumdum said...

Ee Leen, That sentence you discovered is called 'flicking a big, moist, pungent, glistening middle finger at her readers' ("they're so stupid they won't catch me anyway - even if I signpost my actions!")

Amir, Jessica Fletcher? How insulting. They are more like Charlie's Angels version 2.0...

Post modernism is a load of bollocks is the result of the death of imagination. Like magical-realism as well.

Chet said...

Isn't it called "self-fulfilling wish" or something?

Amir wrote "I wanna see if they all look like Jessica Fletcher ;-)"

Haha, I'm not the only one who thinks members of a women's reading club are ... er, matronly. And Amir - do you mean if they look like Angela Lansbury?

Chet said...

Amir said "I wanna see if they all look like Jessica Fletcher ;-)"

Haha, I'm not the only one to think members of a women's reading club are ... er, matronly.

But surely Amir was thinking more of Angela Lansbury?

ericlow said...

"A Malaysian author has published an English anthology. An 18-year-old Malaysian author. Why not celebrate that fact?"

i find it laughable that someone is implying that a person should be given ink because of age and nationality.

Damyanti said...

Poppadumdum, I agree somewhat with Fadz that possibly never reading this writer's work would be a tad too extreme. I suppose any publisher who would take her on again would be very careful to check the veracity of her work, and she surely deserves another chance.

On the other hand, I also feel Fadz's attitude of "imitation is closed", is also a little extreme in its optimism. Writers can be inspired by a work they have read, but to copy it word for word is just not on. Imagine if everyone chose just to flatter in this way...pretty soon there would be no original work left.

Adeline has been named and shamed, and for the moment that should be enough. The publisher has promptly withdrawn the books, and no one is making money out of plagiarism.

If Adeline really has talent, she would write more stuff, and somebody would publish it. The most we do is be very vigilant when it comes to her work.

But we must have it in us to appreciate it if Adeline decides to write an original work later, and it has genuine merit.

Fadz said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Fadz said...

Eric Low,

I don't know how it is in Singapore, and I'm not sure if you're aware of this, but Malaysians are notorious for our disdain toward reading. And we can't exactly put the blame on youths and education system; it's somehow innate in the general population. Newspapers, OK. Tabloid magazines, for sure. Comics, bring them on. Novels, what? Journals, zzzzz.

When I was in Secondary School, a teacher of mine wanted to confiscate a Fantasy novel I was reading, while other students in the classroom were either doodling, chatting, or dozing off. I had to explain to her that it was a story book, not even close to a comic. No pictures other than on the cover, see? I had to tell her I would rather read a storybook than waste my time not doing anything. Lucky for me she saw my logic (now you know why I like to argue in your comments section, Sharon. Not a debater though. I had stage-fright).

When Malaysians see other people walking by, nose buried in a novel, they go, "Eh, look at that. Such a showoff." When they find out their colleagues spent over RM200 at a bookstore, they go, "Why waste your money? Belanja us lunch is better." Indeed, we Malaysians love food.

Do you know that the bulk of Malaysian-English novels and anthologies sold at Kinokuniya are placed in a shelf labeled "Malaysian Literature" within the "Asian Literature" section? Where are the Horrors among Stephen King and Anne Rice? Where are Commercial Fictions among Dan Brown, Sidney Sheldon, Robert Ludlum? Where are the General Fictions among Paolo Coelho, Nicholas Sparks, Wally Lamb? And what about Science Fiction and Fantasy? Malaysian publishers don't even dare invest in those genres.

Besides, a majority of those "Malaysian Literature" authors don't even live in Malaysia, their publishers not even Malaysians.

How many people under 20 can attest to having a collection of publishable short stories, in any language? By 19 I had written over 15 complete stories, but were they publishable? I'm afraid not.

When Christopher Paolini wrote and published Eragon, he caused a stir in the literary world, because his book became a bestseller, and was even adapted into a box office feature film. Not a cheap, D-grade indie production, but one that cost millions. And almost all the reviewers kept coming back to his tender age. 18. That's when he published his first novel, the first of a trilogy.

I can't remember if it's Sharon's or Nathan Bransford's post, but there was a discussion about the irrelevance of a writer's age. But most argued that young people don't have the life experience to write deep, meaningful stories. I wouldn't have agreed with them when I was 17 and writing my third short story, but I agree with them now. And I hope I still have a long way to go, to collect more life experiences.

So Eric, with all I have said, is it still laughable that someone be given ink because of age and nationality?

Fadz said...

Dear Sharon,

Salam. I tried emailing you before, but was returned, saying the recipient address was invalid. Anyway, here's to trying again.

I'm sad to say I wasn't shortlisted for the Commonwealth Short Story Competition 2009. Wasn't banking on it, anyway. But a Malaysian writer's story has been highly commended. Here's the link: Just thought I'd share the wonderful news.

By the way, I'm sorry I couldn't arrange a meet-up with you the past 2 weeks. Been quite hectic. I would still love to meet you and show you the version of A Long Sigh Goodnight I submitted to Glimmer Train (the result should be out end of this month), and other stories I hope to publish as an anthology, to get your honest opinion on them. I mean, I can keep writing tons of stories, but are they of publishable quality?

Anyway, hope to see you soon, on a weekday during lunchtime perhaps.

bibliobibuli said...

Fadz thanks so much for the news. my email is, maybe you are using the defunct streamyx one?

Damyanti puts into words my thoughts exactly ...

bibliobibuli said...

erm Fadz - the only ref to a malaysian on that page is one of the actresses ...

Fadz said...

Here's a direct link to her story:

Was there an actress? Holy Moly, I didn't send a wrong link, did I?

(Sigh...I still think about the story you linked, The Not-Dead and the Saved.

Fadz said...

Here's a direct link to her story:

Was there an actress? Holy Moly, I didn't send a wrong link, did I?

(Sigh...I still think about the story you linked, The Not-Dead and the Saved.

Fadz said...

Oh. Heheehe. She's an actress. I didn't know that. Anyway, she did get 'Highly Commended' for the story she wrote, and that's something, right?

composer said...


If you scroll down the page you get Sunitra Kee Xiang Yin from Malaysia for "Light After Death" :)


ericlow said...

Dear fadz,

of course, my answer is/will be/has been/will always be, again, YES. YES. YES. ink should be given to those whose work is deserving. age and nationality are not primary considerations! this rule should run in any country. if critics/readers feel that the ink is wrongly given, then it is their right to shoot it down. To give in is to tolerate the proliferation of crap. quality before all.

chicken soups ,eragon and suchlikes are in a category known as pulp fiction, or trashy novels (btw, funnily enough you should really find out abt eragon's publishing history [self-published, ceaselessly promoted, almost to the point of giving up, but then alas, evil reigned...] and its reasons for success before throwing it at me ^_^) if you are aiming/referring to that, then ehhh, eww? (btw they have a truckload of their own critics too, and oh YES! my goodness, eragon too! nooooo, really?! YES, really...duh ^_^)

what i am trying to say is, give ink to quality. not quantity, age, slant, family, nationality, blah blah blah.

oh yeah, and reading before praising and publishing. hehehe.

(man, i hate commenting on blogger, the box is so small...)

bibliobibuli said...

Jen - thanks! hey that's kee thuan chye's daughter!!!! she won the mph young writers comp too some time back and writes reviews for the star sometimes

Aaron ArkAngel said...

To all who have criticized my friend:

You do not know Adeline the way I do, and therefore have no right to judge her as if you have known her. Adeline has made a genuine mistake and I believe her. For those of you who says she showed no signs of morality or guilt during the open ceremony of the publishing of her book, instead of jumping straight to conclusions saying that she have not a shred of honesty in her when she did not show any signs of weakness, why can't you understand that maybe, just maybe, that she made a genuine mistake?

I will say this again, all of you have no right to generalize the issue and neither do you have the right to judge her, not knowing her personally.