Plagiarism: The Worst Sin in Writing

Today I’m interrupting my regular Monday series on novel preparation to address a very serious matter.

When Kristen Lamb and I started Warrior Writers Boot Camp, one of the original members was Terrell Mims, who followed us over from another writers’ group. His writing was very immature, and he was slow to accept any critique from us, but he was a personable guy, and we both liked him. In fact, I thought he was a man of unusual character—a poor Black evangelical Christian conservative.

After a few months, he moved away, spending time in San Antonio, Baton Rouge and New Orleans I think, but he stayed in touch, particularly with Kristen. Shortly after he left, we began to notice a marked improvement in the caliber of his writing from the blogs he posted.

We were both very happy to see the improvement. Kristen even turned over part of the running of her online version of Warrior Writers Boot Camp to him. I referred several people to him for help with their writing. Since Kristen and I both love to encourage and support other writers, we both boosted him and tried to help spread his reputation as a good writer. I’ve had him listed on my website’s blogroll for months, and I endorsed him in at least one of my blogs.

Sadly, the news broke this week that those blogs that so impressed us were pretty much all the results of plagiarism. I don’t mean lifting a quote here and there without attribution. He cut and pasted whole articles, along with their photos, into his blog. You can Google Terrell Mims plagiarist and find several articles about it. I didn’t learn of this until our WWBC meeting Saturday morning. I think Kristen had learned about it maybe a day before.

This strikes me on several levels. For one thing a man whom I’d considered a friend has ruined his life—at least as far as ever getting any writing published. His dream is now shattered around his feet.

A friend I’d considered a Christian brother and a man of character now stands exposed to the world as a fraud. I hate to see anyone do that to himself.

On another level, I feel bad about anyone to whom I recommended him. I don’t know that he did anything that actually damaged another writer directly, but it could have, and plagiarism is about the same thing in the writing community as embezzlement in the banking community.

His fall casts a shadow on those of us who recommended him. I’ve already received a scathing comment on a blog for having done so. If I owe anyone an apology, I hereby give it.

More than any shadow this may cast on me, I regret the possible damage it may have done to my friend Kristen. After all, I don’t have near the reputation to damage that she has. Those of you who know her know she’s a woman of character. Her books, her blogs and her tweets are all designed to help her fellow writers. Helping others is her nature and central to her character. I truly hope no fallout from this sad turn of events damages her in any way.

Was Terrell a fraud from the get-go, or was he simply a greedy and/or lazy young man whose overblown ambition and underdeveloped character combined to lead him down a horribly wrong path? I don’t know the answer to that question, but I’m extremely sorry for the damage he has caused himself, his family and those of us who loved and trusted him. And as a Christian, I have to pray that God can use this horrible thing Terrell has done as a learning experience to draw him closer to Himself and to begin rebuilding his life, although it won’t be as a writer.

clip_image001Bio:

A graduate of Duke University, I spent 42 years as a health insurance agent. Most of my career was spent in Texas, but for a few years I traveled many other states. I started writing about 20 years ago, and have six unpublished novels to use as primers on how NOT to write fiction. Since my retirement from insurance a few years ago, I have devoted my time to helping Kristen Lamb start Warrior Writers’ Boot Camp and trying to learn to write a successful novel myself.

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About David N. Walker

David N. Walker is a Christian husband, father and grandfather, a grounded pilot and a near-scratch golfer who had to give up the game because of shoulder problems. A graduate of Duke University, he spent 42 years in the health insurance industry, during which time he traveled much of the United States. He started writing about 20 years ago and has been a member and leader in several writers' groups. The devotional Heaven Sent and the novella series, Fancy, are now available in paperback and in Kindle and Nook formats, as well as through Smashwords and Kobo. See information about both of these by clicking "Books" above.
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75 Responses to Plagiarism: The Worst Sin in Writing

  1. Chris Doerty says:

    Someone should do a followup on this guy about hypocrisy and hubris. It seems he’s separated himself from the discovery of his past deeds and now spends all
    His time on FB pontificating about how righteous he is , continually dogging our public figures and just saying all sorts of disgusting things about people who don’t have his views as if he’s never done anything he regrets in his life. Hmm…maybe a guy like Terell Mimms doesn’t regret anything he’s ever don’t in his life. Glad I found this, justifies my being disgusted with the guy.

    Oh, and he now goes by the writers name of Chris DeLaune. It’s quite pitiful he is changing his name in attempt to scam people again.

    https://mobile.twitter.com/AuthorCDeLaune

    http://chrisdelaune.wordpress.com/author/chrisdelaune/

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  6. yikici says:

    David, thank you for writing such a heartfelt article. Since I have heard this news, I have had a feeling of sadness and anger. I’m sad because TM has affected so many people by gaining their trust and getting them to build his presence and profile in the writers world -and this in turn angers me as I absolutely detest people who deceive people and are dishonest in their disposition. Why does one have to be so horrible to a trusting soul? When I stepped out onto the blogosphere I was extremely cautious and was apprehensive about sharing my writing, then I just let go of most of that. I know I have a long way to go (in terms of writing); but incidents like this just make you take a step back and say ‘I wonder’. I only hope, this doesn’t surface again, but this is the worldwide web and the unfortunate possibilities are endless.

  7. I’m totally late to the party here – I just wanted you to know that in my mind, yours and Kristen’s reputations aren’t harmed at all. You were fair, you were helpful, you were understanding.

    I think the world of you and Kristen and I’m so saddened that this person cast any sort of shadow on either of you. You both give so much to the writing community and are to be held up as an example of dignity and respect. That’s they way you’ve both handled this – with dignity and respect.

    Thank you for this post. It’s a horrible example of what can happen to all of us writers. As difficult as it is to read and accept, I’m wiser for knowing it all the same.

  8. First I have to say are you a Devils fan? ;-)
    WOW it sounds like this guy really fooled a lot of people. It is sad though, because like you said he just ruined his career.

    Cat

  9. Cari says:

    I’m both saddened & appalled. Not only has this person cheated two wonderful people who are willing to guide even the fledgling who’s still just trying to discover if she can write what’s on her mind publicly; he’s cheated himself out of his own development, growth, & evolution–both as a writer & as a human being. He’s committed a crime against both you & Kristen via the plagiarism & also against himself through that same sin of plagiarism. I wonder if he realizes that, when all is said & done in this matter, it’s himself that he’s inflicted the most damage upon as, with every plagiarized word, he’s stagnating further rather than growing. That’s a truly depressing thought, in my opinion.

    Maybe it’s just me, but the more I blog my thoughts out there, the more I learn about myself & the world around me–growing & changing with every word & every comment. I’m not the same person I was five months ago when I first put fingers to keyboard in public & started my blogging journey. To me, this is what writing is all about. Whether it’s fiction, non-fiction, journalism, op-ed, blogging, etc–we write, therefore we grow. That is what makes this entire writing journey, regardless of any financial outcome, worthwhile. Sure there are ‘growing pains’, but it’s a good feeling, overall, & that is why I’m so saddened for all involved, including the person that did this.

    • You’ve caught the idea about writing, Cari. I’ve seen you grow – both in writing ability and in self-confidence – just in the brief time I’ve known you.

      • Cari says:

        Thank you, David. That is, indeed, high praise & most appreciated. I sure wasn’t fishing for a compliment at all, though. I just wanted to clarify my opinion & sadness regarding this entire mess from the point of view seen by the still-opening eyes of the extremely new ‘writer’ simply because the personal growth itself is so rewarding & I can’t imagine cutting myself off from that amazing feeling by plagiarizing the works of others. I’d rather quit & just know in my heart that I’d done my best at trying than reap hollow, meaningless, & ill-gotten ‘rewards’ from stealing the footprints from the journeys of my sister & fellow travelers.

  10. Jami Gold says:

    Great post! And thank you to Kristen for making the due process issue very clear. I’m sorry that you both were caught up in this.

  11. Wow. I don’t really know what to say, just that I share everyone’s sentiments–this is awful, and since it affects our whole community, I think it’s good we’re talking about it. And you have the right attitude, David, praying for those who hurt us. I’m glad the lies have come to an end. It may be really painful for lots of people right now, but it does mean they can move on and not be taken advantage of anymore.

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  13. hawleywood40 says:

    What an awful situation. I don’t know him and haven’t been to his blog, but I experienced the pain of what you are going through to a much lesser extent once (as editor of my college newspaper I had a writer I believed in, mentored and encouraged plagiarize a column, and I didn’t catch it and published it. It was a very humbling and heartbreaking experience) my thoughts go out to both you and Kristin! It makes you so sad for yourself, for the writer who does it, and for the community who believed in his/her abilities and honesty.

  14. zencherry says:

    Oh, how unfortunate that this happened. Perhaps, hopefully, he’ll find a path back to a peaceful, loving place that will allow him to wash away this mistake. I can only hope that all of us will be willing to accept and forgive if this time comes.
    Mistakes are hard to live with alone and I reach out to him now, through this comment, hoping that he understands that he can overcome this through hard work, many apologies, and time.

    • He can receive forgiveness from God – IF he’ll honestly confess what he’s done. So far he hasn’t been willing to do that. Forgiveness from the writing community, possibly, but restoration and acceptance as a writer – seriously doubtful.

      • zencherry says:

        Yes, he’s probably erased that path for himself, but I’m always afraid of what people will do when they think that there’s no way back.

  15. WOW.

    I’m shocked. I’ve been reading all of these comments, and my mind has just blanked out. I can’t believe this happened.

    I can’t say I knew Terrell…but we’ve chatted quite a bit online and he sent me some blurbs to give my advice on. He seemed so friendly and helpful. Funny even.

    I’ve never seen him talking with “his boys” on FB…I barely have time to do my own thing on FB & Twitter anymore, but I will say that there have been times where I’ve read a blog post or two and thought it seemed “off.” But I just assumed those were “off” kinda days for him, and continued to support him and share his posts. I feel like an idiot now ~ Nothing compared to what you and Kristen feel, I’m sure. In fact, he seemed so close to Kristen, which is another reason I gave him the benefit of the doubt.

    Again…wow. I’m so sorry you guys have had to deal with this. I, personally, do not see it as any reflection on either you or Kristen, or WWBC. You cannot know what is in a person’s heart, you can only go by what they show you.

  16. I don’t know Terrell but I would sure like to tell him he’s lost two of the best friends a writer could have. You and Kristen. Then there’s all the good people at #WWBC, Piper, Jillian and a host of others who’s names I associate with willingness to help and integrity. Isn’t it ironic that the very people he could LEARN from he screwed over? That man had no idea what he could have had if he’d been willing to work for it. It makes me so sad. I’m sad for all of you and I pity him.

  17. I feel sick right now. I never guessed. Terrell always seemed like a nice guy to me and I admired his posts. I never saw the original articles and never had an inkling they weren’t his…But I have 3 posts in my email inbox that were clearly copied from other sources. I don’t see attribution anywhere but I can no longer access Terrell’s blog to be sure. This is the worst thing anyone can do as a writer. Better to be unoriginal and stink but at least be authentic. I am so sad for him too. I don’t want him to have blown his career. I want him to speak and and tell us what happened. If he just freaked out about trying to keep up with what he perceived was necessary to be a successful blogger. We all mess up one way or another. I wish he’d talk to us, apologize and tell us what happened.

  18. DM says:

    This is sad. I feel for people who resort to this. I had some ideas stolen from me once by a critique partner, who copied certain parts. Why people end up doing this is a mystery. Write or write not. Sad.

  19. My first gut reaction is to sit in silence with my mouth gaping. A little bit ago, I saw tweets accusing him of stealing and his toss off tweet denial and honestly thought it was a joke. That someone was just “hating.”

    My heart is hurt in several ways over this. First for the level of betrayal that you, Kristen and others of WWBC and beyond must feel. I have been betrayed in life before by people I trusted and it is a cutting, burning feeling that steals something away. I hope you find healing from that once this is over.

    Next is for any harmful fallout that might come your way. I am a past online student of Kristen, respect her greatly and feel a sense of community loyalty. So I hate that any negative energy spin is in the air from the wrong actions of another.

    Finally I am hurt for Terrell and for what this will do in his life. Don’t get me wrong…whatever his actions were is what has brought home the fire. I just agree with David on the waste of what could and should have been. I remember a post I read on Terrell’s site that touched and inspired me and am sick that it was all a lie. I get the quiver feeling some may get at reading David’s post. However not being in the relationship, I will not judge what anyone feels they need to do to address this publicly or privately. Be well.

  20. Jess Witkins says:

    David I’m so glad you made me aware of this. I only feel bad for you and Kristen who have had your reputations put on the line because of Terrell’s bad choices. Take comfort in knowing the spirit of mywana and WWBC will stand by you. Mistakes happen, and you and Kristen should take no blame in the choices of Terrell. I appreciate everything you and Kristen have done for me and the writing community. I’m even more happy you’re a part of the LLC now too. Nice to know what honest people we have.

  21. Wow. What a Monday morning read. I opened up my email and sat back with my coffee wondering what in the world was going on.

    I’m with Ellie. I can’t believe anyone would believe they could get away with copying another man’s words and actually get away with it in today’s world. I’ve always been terrified of plagiarism – with my writing today and way back in school.

    I honestly feel horrible for everyone involved. I do feel bad for Terrell that he had to actually stoop to this level. I feel horrible for Kristen, you, and anyone and everyone that took his writing workshops. He “attacked” one of my friend’s once on Twitter and my respect for him immediately declined, but I never would have wished this on anyone.

    What a dark cloud. Let me know if there is anything I can do.

  22. lynmidnight says:

    Oh no… I knew there was something fishy… Crap. He offered me free criticism of my current WIP. Fortunately, I did not send him chapters, but I did send him a lot of my outlines. While I doubt he’d plagiarize those, I did notice his ideas were quite flat for a supposed critic and pupil of Kristen.

    I am so sorry this happened to you both! Also, I’m sure that those who know Kristen and you will not blame you for helping him at all. That was his choice — to plagiarize — and he must live with it. It’s out there so he won’t be able to do it again. I’ll even write him and see what he has to say about it…

  23. Suzan says:

    I’m going to come out and say that I never liked Terrell much to begin with but he was y’all’s friend. I was good with that. And I don’t condone his actions. However, while letting people know about it is a good thing, it really should have been discussed with him first. If he didn’t resolve the situation, such as taking down the posts and making a public apology, then I could see the need for putting him.on blast publically.

    As it is, it seems he’s going with the “no comment” approach and going to ground. It takes a big person to own to their mistakes and take responsibilty for them. I hope he’s able to do that sooner rather than later. I’m sorry that Kristen has had to deal with the aftermath and I certainly don’t blame her for being upset. But I’m the type of person that would like to see everyone being treated fairly, whether they have wronged me or not.

    • Thanks for your comment, Suzan.

    • Author Kristen Lamb says:

      We weren’t the ones who “outed” him. We found out after it was all over the Internet. The genie was out of the bottle. And rather than apologizing, Terrell tried to go back and cover his tracks and then lied.

      I tried to treat him fairly. I took him aside privately when I first got wind of this. When I asked him about it privately, he told me the accusations were false and that his accuser, Ian Fortney who is a blogger and freelancer who exposed him, was lying and out to get him for no reason.

      He told me that this Holy Taco was a random troll. Terrell told me that this guy was pissed off because he used information off Yahoo, but cited it so he didn’t understand why the guy was after him. I looked at the article, saw it was cited and thought Terrell was the victim of a random Internet troll.

      Since the accusations weren’t addressed and no apology was made, Holy Taco decided to blog about Terrell and out him to the entire world. I again pulled Terrell aside and asked his side. Terrell told me that the accusations were false and that Ian Fortney Photoshopped the whole thing. Terrell claimed he was a victim.

      I TRIED to give him the benefit of the doubt and yet he continued to lie then lie some more. Apparently Terrell Mims didn’t understand what I have been preaching for YEARS. Everything is FOREVER on the Internet. He didn’t grasp the idea of truth and honesty and he certainly didn’t grasp the idea that there are Internet archives that will show us a page even after it has been deleted.

      I gave him the benefit of the doubt and he lied, so what am I supposed to do with this? I certainly gave him and his reputation far more concern than he gave mine. THAT I assure you.

  24. Jillian Dodd - Glitter, Bliss and Perfect Chaos says:

    I disagree that you are “publicly calling him out”. I think this is an issue that you had to discuss publicly because he drew you into the situation. I feel that you have handled it extremely well. I would’ve been very angry that a friend could do this and would probably have not been able to control what I said. I have the extreme pleasure of being in you and Kristen’s Warrior Writer’s Boot Camp. I never met Terrell, but I don’t like what he did to you both. I can speak from personal experience that you and Kristen give so much in WWBC just to help people. The lessons I’ve learned there have been invaluable to my writing and I’ve never paid a dime for it. Kristen gives away so much free advice in WWBC as well as on her blog. Anyone that knows her knows how bad she feels for recommending a person of questionable ethics. I can’t imagine that this would damage her reputation. I also want to commend you for writing such a great blog post. You turned it into a what not to do, rather than just pointing fingers. You’ve handled this in a very Christian like manner.

  25. Marcia says:

    I kind of expected something to happen with him, but I didn’t expect this. He presents a thoughtful, almost pious demeanor on his blog. But on Facebook he’s a different person, if you catch him talking to one of ‘his boys’. There shouldn’t be that much discrepancy between the two personas. I stopped talking to him on FB and stopped reading his blog because I considered him a fraud, though I never imagined he’d plagurize, nor that he’d involve trustworthy people in his game.
    So sorry this happened to you and Kristen, David.

    • Thanks, Marcia. Guess I didn’t read his stuff closely enough to catch the discrepancy you mentioned. Sometimes I can be a bit dense.

      • Jenny Hansen says:

        You’re not dense, David. When you have good character and motives, it’s hard to imagine the others you trust not having same. I’m very sorry to hear that yours and Kristen’s trust have been betrayed in this manner.

      • Marcia says:

        I agree, David. You’re not dense. It was a fluke that I caught a couple of FB conversations where he behaved and spoke completely differently with ‘friends’ than on his blog or with other writers. He had an agenda and stepped on others to accomplish it. That behavior usually blows up in your face. You had no reason to expect anything from him other than what he showed you-so you wouldn’t have guessed this would happen.

  26. tamikaeason says:

    What a horrible situation! As a writer that is passionate about my calling as aministry I would never want to harm God’s message that way.

    I pray this man does find his way back to the Father!

  27. Karlene says:

    David, I’m really sorry that happened to you both. Tell Kristen that her reputation will come back. We don’t know why people do what they do, but we do know that we don’t have control over them. There are bad people out there doing bad things. Don’t give them your life by giving them too much anger. Move forward with a lesson learned.

  28. This is so sad. Being a writer takes hard work and perseverance. To just think your can take the blood sweat and tears of someone else’s work is a true tragedy.

  29. EllieAnn says:

    Not sure how anyone could think they could get away with plagiarism these days. Not sure how he want this long with getting away with it!!

  30. Cid says:

    Have you discussed this with Terrell and asked him to account for these allegations? What does he have to say about this?

    • No, I haven’t, Cid, but I did send him an email letting him know about the blog. I’ll see whether or not he has anything to say in response.

      • Cid says:

        I’m not saying what he did was right, without Terrell’s side of the story represented there is only what is perceived to be the truth. What I have an issue with is calling him out in public. You bring out your shared faith. As a Christian, you’re supposed to go to him first and discuss something. If he is in the worng and doesn’t make it right, go to him again with other people you respect. If he still wouldn’t have admited to doing wrong and try to fix it, then I would see the validity of calling him out in a blog like this. As it stands, I’m incredibly uncomfortable with how this has been handled.

    • Piper Bayard says:

      Hi Cid. Terrell lied about it for the first hour or so when WWBC folks confronted him, and by the time I emailed him, he didn’t bother to deny it. Holy Taco has the evidence on his blog. If you google Terrell’s name, it will come up on the first page. He was caught cold.

      I genuinely appreciate your concern for due process. I consider it an indication of a fair mind and a decent heart. In this case, though, we have both evidence and clear confession. There is no question he plagiarized extensively, and it was public long before David’s blog this morning.

    • Author Kristen Lamb says:

      Yes…he had a bunch of lies. He told us he was a victim of some random hater. He told me that Ian Fortney Photoshopped the entire thing.

    • Author Kristen Lamb says:

      He was confronted about this over a week ago. We tried to help him and give him the benefit of the doubt. He claimed he was the victim. He was confronted time after time by many people including me, and he lied time after time. He did give his side of the story. He was a random victim and Holy Taco Photoshopped the evidence.

      I have no problem publicly calling out a thief and a liar. Plagiarism is treason in our world. We have to be able to trust each other. People need to understand that the payoff might be quick, but the penalty for betraying trust is steep.

      I can appreciate you wanted him to be treated fairly. Trust me when I say that I went out of my way to help him and confront him as privately as possible. We were not the ones who make this so public. That happened last Friday and, frankly, Terrell Mims deserves every bit of what he gets. He had the opportunity to make this right and he chose to lie. We can’t help a person if he can’t be honest with us.

  31. Christy Farmer says:

    David I am so sorry to hear that this happened to both you and Kristen. Both of you go out of your way to help fellow writers. You are to be commended for being forthcoming and I thank you for your honesty. Sending best wishes.

  32. Wow, David, I had no idea. How tragic. So sorry that happened. Sometimes when we trust others, it comes back to bite us in the butt. I’m praying no ill effects for you or Kristen in this matter. Most people will be understanding. This happened with a wild evangelist who was endorsed by a big time pastor, turned out he was a big fraud, although, in all honesty, how this big time pastor who endorsed him couldn’t figure that out was beyond me. I think he had his name taken off this “fallen” pastor’s books as an endorser. (in the new prints)

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