The Castle Herald
Every Picture Tells A Story

Plagiarism, part II: In the beginning, the world began with the Word

My husband and I were having coffee together before we left for our jobs on a cold January day in 1997. In those days, whenever we had a chance to talk, we discussed “the infernal problem,” a phrase we’d taken from the Dorothy L. Sayers mystery Gaudy Night.

“Words and what a writer makes of them are his own creation, so they are something that belongs to the writer,” I said.

“But your boss and the dean don’t know you’re a writer,” he said.

The Infernal Problem: Theft

“Whether or not they know I’m a writer shouldn’t matter; they want to use the Stop Form without giving me credit for the idea. I thought of it and I designed it. They may not give me respect as a classified employee, but they want to take my idea, my words, and my design, for the college to use to improve student retention. They want to use my work, but will not acknowledge that I was the one who created the form.”

My husband stared into his coffee mug. I sighed.

“I don’t sneak into my managers’ offices and take their property. Whatever a writer’s degree of success, their words and ideas are still their property, and their words and ideas are worth something.”

“My managers have credentials, careers, money and great retirement; if they had created the Stop Form they would be taking bows at the president’s weekly meeting. They would be telling other departments how to use the Stop Form. And when they come up for promotion and raises, the Stop Form would be their number one accomplishment demonstrating their value to the college.”

“What they would expect from the college if they had designed the form is something they insist that the college isn’t able to do for me. I don’t know what they are up to or where I stand. I don’t how much the college president knows. Maybe he is with them. It could be that Administration doesn’t want to admit that the college’s Information Operator created the college innovation for retention. Information Operators don’t count for very much in the college bureaucracy.”

“But they teach just the opposite viewpoint. Remember the instructor who said, ‘nature doesn’t plant a tree in the perfect place, sometimes nature plants trees to grow out of a rock,'” he said.

“Well, as that tree planted in the rock, I say they talk a good game. But if the college believed everything that they said about all employees being equal and important, it wouldn’t matter whether I was president of the college or scrubbed the floors. They would use my work and acknowledge me as the creator. But I’m a classified employee and they are management. They say all the right things, but don’t actually believe them. And they don’t believe in American Exceptionalism, or in American heroes, or even believe that ordinary citizens are able to do extraordinary things.”

“Have any of them heard of Thomas Edison? Homeschooled but brilliant,” my husband said with a grin.

“You don’t hear much about Edison these days. He wouldn’t get much respect from the college crowd, whether students or instructors. To most of them he’s just another dead white guy.”

“Edison. To them he’s just irrelevant history; to me he was a genius. The only light bulb I understand is the one that lights up in my mind when I get a new idea.”

“Edison was a practical genius; I bet he would think that the Stop Form should be my step up in job classification and money. The Registrar and the Dean want the credit for it, so they want to keep me quiet. They are pressuring me to do something they would never do: give up any claim to the form, and allow the college to use it while getting nothing in return.

“But if I do either of those things the Registrar and the Dean might claim that they designed the form. And then it will be their solution to the student retention problem.”

“And if I hadn’t had the foresight to surprise them and present it, and explain it in front of a whole room full of people, and at the very end of a meeting, they would have claimed it as the work of the group. As it is I still don’t feel secure, no matter how many people were there.”

“I don’t know whether it’s them or the college president who says that I can’t take credit, or receive public acknowledgement, or get a job upgrade in exchange for them using the Stop Form.”

“None of it makes sense. I solve problems creatively, and I have a way with words; I used those talents to create the form. If I don’t get credit for my work, I’ll have nothing left,” I said.

My husband said, “I agree that they want to claim the form. But I think that some of their grudging attitude towards you comes from the past. When Dean Joey was your boss, she and her assistant wanted to keep you as a contract worker. You pushed back until you got classified status and they will never forget or forgive that. From that time on, whatever they “gave” to you was given grudgingly because they still held a grudge.”

I came back to my point.

“They’ve taken other ideas that I’ve had and used them without acknowledging that I had any part in them. It would be wrong to let them play me for a fool again and take this away from me. ”

“Thou Shall Not Steal?” My husband asked.

“Yes. They’ve stolen from me before. Ideas and words are all I have, and when they are stolen…I feel sick at heart.”

He shook his head.

“Colleges are supposed to stand for honesty and truth. Rules against plagiarism are in the student handbook. Instructors are required to guard against students using, or stealing, someone else’s words or ideas. Words can be valuable intellectual property. Stealing isn’t allowed. The college teaches that, and so it should stand up for that principle when it deals with me. Managers, not students, are trying to claim my work; they are plagiarizing, and that’s against the rules. The college is a state agency, part of the state government; they are supposed to obey the state’s and the people’s law. If my managers don’t understand that point, maybe their managers will.”

Sociopaths don’t have a conscience

“But what if your manager’s managers don’t get the concept? What if they are sociopaths too?  Sociopaths don’t have a conscience. What do you do if the next higher layer of management won’t help you?” asked my husband.

“Go to the top, I guess. The governor is a Democrat, and the newspapers love him. I don’t know if he has a conscience, but does he want the public to know that the Dean and registrar at one of his state colleges are trying to steal ideas from a subordinate employee?”

“Let’s say the governor supports college management, because that’s usually what happens. So, you go to the newspapers first, but you have no guarantee that they will report your story. If they don’t report the story then the public won’t know. The newspapers support the governor; do you think that they would report a scandal that might hurt him?”

“Newspapers have to tell the truth, don’t they?”

I shrugged off what my husband was saying, because I still believed in the integrity of America’s media. They were biased but their mantra was and is “report the truth”, and that “they existed to keep institutions and government leaders honest”.

In the Beginning was the Word, and the word was with God, and the Word was God  John1.1

“I was brought up on the Bible, and in the Bible words mean something. Words are important. They are truth. They lead to Heaven or to Hell. ‘In the beginning was the Word, and the word was with God, and the word was God,'” I quoted.

“Beautiful words,” my husband said.

“And well- known words, but Ryan and Dean Joey would steal them right out  from under God’s nose if they wanted them. They would claim God’s Word, and they would claim anybody’s words and ideas as their own, if they thought that they could get by with it. It’s because they think that they can get by with it that they are trying to steal the Stop Form from under my nose. How can anybody be so dishonorable?”

“I don’t think that you believe, even now, that they are dishonorable. Please accept that they think that they can get by with it, and go figure.”

“I think the worlds turned upside down,” I muttered.

We shook our heads and laughed, but it didn’t relieve the anxiety that we felt.

I was grateful that despite our anxiety we could still laugh. But what we had been through since the preceding November was no laughing matter. It didn’t make sense. I had done some innovative work for my employer, and now the situation in my office was deteriorating, and we were afraid that my job was in jeopardy.

Words of Wisdom for Writers:Plagiarism Everything can be Stolen Part 1

Everything can be stolen. 

For writers and other creative people it is a dark and evil thought, but almost everything we conceive, write, create or design, can be taken from us.

And, it’s not solely material things that are in danger, not only product thefts of: videos, books, and music. The most intangible gift of all; creative ideas and designs, especially those in the early stages of development, are the most vulnerable, and can be changed, claimed, taken or stolen. Our creative ideas and designs can be used and sold with no mention, credit, benefit or payment to the author.

Copyright laws are supposed to protect the author from the theft of their creative work. But the  protection for intellectual property depends on the situation. The author has to understand copyright laws and have the financial resources to pursue thieves and hold them accountable. And, if the theft takes place in the workplace, the author needs people in power to stand up for her. But standing for what is right is difficult; it requires heroes, and so usually the author who faces theft of her work, plagiarism in the workplace, is left to take her stand alone.

Like other crimes, intellectual property theft leaves at least one victim, and that is usually the author. For the author there is pain for the lost creation, and for lost time. The work in which the author invested his or her time, her heart and her energy is gone.

A dream didn’t come true.

When the creative idea or design was stolen, the author’s dream was stolen too. The dream of a bright future supported him through the difficulties of conception and the design of the product. The dream spurred him on to bring the product into being. The dream gave him hope and energy and lighted his way through the dark nights’ work that would benefit  him, his family, and others.

Do the thieves suffer any consequences?

If they aren’t taken to court, probably not. Do they ever regret what they’ve done? Only if they fail. It is unrealistic to expect feelings of regret from a thief. Thieves are not romantic, they are realists. They might be angry if they fail, and regret what they have lost, but they are simple beings. Guilt, or regret for what they have done is beyond their scope.

Thieves take what they can take.

To them it is foolish to do anything else. Thieves are predators. Like psychopaths, they have few scruples, and little empathy for others’ suffering. Thieves lie. They are manipulative and opportunistic. Thieves take what they can take.

For the author, who lacks that realism, what the thieves have left behind is destruction; a world turned upside down.  They mourn and they ponder: what is safe if my work, something  that I created, designed or built, can be taken without any consequences for the thief?

Everything can be taken.

The creators are left empty-handed. They face financial and personal loss. Like other victims of theft, their property was taken. But theft by plagiarism is different than the theft of other possessions. The creation stolen wasn’t a car, or a television set. Intellectual property is different because it is a product that began with the author’s idea. It began with a joyful burst of thought. From the beginning the thought was the author’s creation.

Most atheist creatives acknowledge that creativity has a special kind of magic. But believers have recognized creativity as God given. To God’s gift of creativity, the author adds his own talent,time and effort. The loss of intellectual property is not just a person’s loss of property, something that is part of that person has been stolen as well. It is their idea, and the solution that they found.   It is something that came from within their mind and their being.

What was created exists because the author exists and creates.  It is the heart of what a creative person is, and after their creation is stolen, they are left with  wreckage,  and with anger and fear.

Afterwards-The Cover-up

Usually, even if the theft fails there are consequences for the victim. If the attempted plagiarism happened in the workplace then the story hasn’t ended.

Even if the theft isn’t successful, the thieves might still control the workplace. If they do,  then they control the outcome of the story. The artist is left to survive as well as she can. She goes to work in the same company or in the same department as the thieves, and her fate may depend on their actions.

The thieves don’t feel guilty about what they have done, but they have jobs and reputations to protect. They know that the story can’t come to light. Their first compelling impulse is to get rid of the wronged employee so that the true story will never be told.

In that case, the author is the one who suffers the aftermath. The author suffers the destruction of job security, and of reputation. She suffers from bullying and retaliation from managers that continues long after the attempted theft. The unsuccessful thieves are protected by their titles and their credentials. The thieves may be protected by their company or by the government agency they work for; the author is protected by no one.

The long chain of destructive events that follow an attempted creative mugging, can affect the author’s life for  years to come. That unjust, and peculiar destruction happened to me when The Stop Form, a product that I conceived and designed, and which is featured  on  was targeted for intellectual property theft.

The Stop Form  wasn’t targeted by an unethical corporation, or by a con-man, who specialized in intellectual property theft. My design, which was created on my time, and in my own home, was  targeted by my manager, a Registrar at a Community College in Colorado, and by his supervisor, the Dean over the Registration department.

My managers had titles, positions of respect, and good credentials. Their employer and mine, was an accredited college. To the community they presented a facade of high standards and respectability. Despite their credentials, those Community College officials, my employers,tried to Plagiarize The Stop form.  Despite  their credentials, the thieves set out to take whatever they could take, and my employer, the Community College didn’t interfere; it protected them, and allowed me to be forced out of my job.


Next Post: Plagiarism: In The Beginning


Beaucoup? We have much: we have liberty!


Cosmos from my garden

For many Americans, the time before the economic meltdown of 2008 and the following recession were times of plenty. The French might have used the term “beaucoup” to describe that era because so many had so much.

Then the recession came and, like a drought, dried up our land of plenty.

For those who had so much and lost it, it was as if we had lived in two different worlds: the world before 2008 where there was a sense of  personal and national abundance, and the present time of insecurity and scarcity. The aftermath? American’s sense of optimism and hope dried up.

Some interpreted this difficult interlude as a sign that U.S. prosperity has ended and something beautiful has been lost. But America is still here; the problem is that some Americans lost faith in their dreams, and in their country’s great destiny.

This summer, much of  the country suffered heatwaves and drought. Drought has become a symbol to me of what the last several years have done to the country. Just as the heat shriveled up the flowers this summer, the recession shriveled up our country’s resources: the jobs, savings, and the property that has always been part of the American dream.

Putting  loss aside is difficult.  But isn’t it time to stop mourning and turn to the future? Isn’t it time to remember the courage of our ancestors and fight for our dreams again?

As I’ve looked over this summer’s garden, instead of mourning what was lost,  I’ve  cheered myself up by looking at our pictures from past bountiful summers. Summers when nature furnished plenty of water; summers when there was much.

Such lovely flowers! Beaucoup blooms! We had so much! Flowers that were bright, lush and abundant.

To find that abundance for ourselves and our nation, the citizens of the United States must begin again. Taking care of a garden is hard work, even without a drought. And rebuilding our economy and our nation will take effort. As Rudyard Kipling said, “Gardens are not made by singing ‘Oh, how beautiful!’ and sitting in the shade.”

We must start with the faith that what has been great can be so again.

And we must remember that no matter what has been lost, much still remains.  We must remember the bounty of our past, and then work to reclaim that abundance for ourselves in the future.

This summer I’ve rejoiced over those pictures from the past and used them to restore my hope, not just for my flower garden, but for a bright future for myself and for America. If we need encouragement,  we can look to American history to give us examples to follow and the courage to do the work.

We experienced good times because of the work, wisdom, faith and strength of those who came before us. They left us gifts: the founding documents, and their bravery, the foundation on which our forefathers first built the United States.

The first and the greatest gift that they gave us was the gift of liberty, the freedom and independent spirit that  is the cornerstone of America.

Through their sacrifice the founders built a special nation, like no other on earth. They left us  principles and  a unique system of government.

Without liberty, there would have been no substance, no lasting foundation for America. That enduring foundation is a wonderful place for present-day citizens to start rebuilding our lives and  our country. Next summer we can plant new gardens, but tomorrow we can begin to rebuild a stronger and more prosperous America.

America remains the land of bright futures. It is the home of the American dream, built on a foundation of liberty.  There is work ahead for Americans, but we can do it!

John Paine said, “Those who expect to reap the blessings of freedom, must, like men, undergo the fatigues of supporting it”.

As we work on during this summer of doubt and drought, we must recall that, “To live in freedom is to Dwell in Sunshine!”

Prairie Princess card from

City Castle’s Prairie Princess card


Final Quote is from City Castles, Prarie Princess- Patriotic Card : May you always Dwell in Sunshine! @   Item#SO2003-1

Andi Pearson Unravels Mysteries at a Special Writer's Event

On Monday, December 5th at 6 pm, Read Write and Brew, Golden’s independent coffee/book shop, presents Unraveling Mysteries: An Anthology on Women and Aging.

I’ll be at that event to hear author Andi Pearson read  her essay. This is a book written for women, by women, with the writers’  perspectives expressed in essays or poetry.

Listening to authors reading their own words and understanding their contrasting viewpoints is something to look forward to,  but I must admit I’m especially excited about this event because Andi Pearson is one of the authors.

Andi is a talented writer who is hard at work finishing her own novel.

She has a wide range of interests that includes service to her community.  Because she loves books and writing, she gives generously of her time and energy to other writers. For nearly four years she has coordinated author readings in Golden. At last count, she had arranged readings for over 22 writers.

Andi did this as a free service, as a great gift and benefit for writers and readers.

She has given me support as a writer for as long as I’ve known her, and now I want to be there to savor her moment of triumph with her.

I first met Andi  a few years ago. I’d read her book reviews in the Denver Post’s Your Hub and I liked the clarity of her writing.  I asked her to review my book, Arthur Collins and the Three Wishes, but Andi felt that her niche was literary fiction. Even though she wasn’t able to review my young adult novel, we found that we had a common interest in Arthurian legend, and soon I was attending the writer’s readings that Andi had organized in Golden.

Over the years our shared interests in our families, reading, and writing helped us to encourage and support each other as we moved forward with our lives and our writing. Recently she wrote the introduction to my book, Bridging the Book: Arthur Collins and the Three Wishes, a companion/guide book that uses narration, role-playing and readings to guide children through the story’s plot.

On Monday December 5th, at 6pm, it’s time for the comfort of some wit, wisdom and women writers solving the mystery  of aging for us. Unraveling Mysteries gives women some candid thoughts on aging. And we really need them, because our preoccupation with aging is apparent.

Look through any fashion magazine, and you come face to face with a culture obsessed with youth and beauty. Every page frightens us with visions of perfect models. On the other hand are specialty catalogs aimed at women over fifty. Here the pretty models have been replaced with products with sky-high prices and promises to undo the ravages of time.

Bring your sister, your mother, or your friends, enjoy the reading, and have a warm drink and a cookie at Read Write and Brew.

Visit Andi Pearson’s blog to learn more about her writing and the writing events she has organized in Golden.

Directions: Read Write and Brew is in the Golden Ridge Shopping Center  at 720 Golden Ridge Road Unit D . You can reach it on Route 6 at Heritage Road. Turn left onto Heritage Road, make the first left at ABC Car Wash and then a left into the shopping area. The bookshop is near the El Tapatio Restaurant. 303-945-7447



« Previous Entries Next Entries »