When I was in high school, I read and loved two wonderful novels by Megan McCafferty, Sloppy Firsts and Second Helpings, which spoke to me in a way few other books did. Recently, I was very surprised and upset to learn that there are similarities between some passages in my novel, How Opal Mehta Got Kissed, Got Wild, and Got a Life, and passages in these books.What's been troubling me is the flak this 19-year-old has been enduring on the Harvard campus dating from the time she got that hefty check. Sarah Weinman of Media Bistro's Galleycat quotes a nasty anonymous comment from one of her instructors no less, albeit a TA. (I won't repeat it here, so follow the link if you're curious.) Can you imagine being taught and graded by someone who is jealous of you? Come on, Harvard, where's the support you should be offering to a teen with great potential under your tutelage? Here's a chance for a whole bunch of talented young people on your campus to learn something crucial outside the classroom -- how to handle the vagaries of fame and fortune. And what's wrong with devoting your life to something "lowbrow" and fun like writing popular fiction for young adults? Okay, I digress.
While the central stories of my book and hers are completely different, I wasn't aware of how much I may have internalized Ms. McCafferty's words. I am a huge fan of her work and can honestly say that any phrasing similarities between her works and mine were completely unintentional and unconscious. My publisher and I plan to revise my novel for future printings to eliminate any inappropriate similarities.
I sincerely apologize to Megan McCafferty and to any who feel they have been misled by these unintentional errors on my part.
My heart is also going out to the Viswanathan parents. If I know South Asian parents (I am one and have two), they'll be instructed to feel shame and guilt by both inner and outer voices. Nonetheless, I predict they'll accompany their daughter with head held high as she walks through this particular valley. At least, for her sake, I hope they do.
My advice for Kaavya? We all blow it. How to respond is the key. Stick to the truth. Seize this amazing opportunity to find friends for life. Grant your parents grace to suffer with you. And above all, keep writing -- nothing refines the craft like a good dose of pain. If you need to climb on out the Fire Escape for a chat and a cup of hot tea, you're always welcome.