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.
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.