Means Girls Never Die
I never set out to be a mom blogger.
I always did well in English class throughout school, and enjoyed writing Buffy the Vampire Slayer fanfic in 12th grade study hall. But, I never really thought I’d make a career out of writing. The idea of majoring in journalism crossed my mind, but I went with the safer option and chose human services as my career path instead.
Years later when we welcomed our first child, it became clear that the best choice for our growing family was for one of us to stay home with them to cut out childcare costs and to have someone on the homefront for in home OT, PT and speech therapies our son on the autism spectrum would require. By the time we had our second, I needed an outlet. Becoming a mother was all the things they told me it would be; amazing, fulfilling, lonely and exhausting.
That’s when I saw that a friend from high school had submitted an article about her kids to a big mom blog and it had been accepted. A light came on at that moment and I just knew that I had to do the same. I had so much I wanted to say about my motherhood journey, from infertility, postpartum depression, a colicky baby, to miscarriage and an autism diagnosis. I knew that I would have the ability to speak to other moms in the trenches.
I submitted my first piece to the same site my friend from high school had, and to my surprise, it was accepted.
My elation brought a new sense of purpose back into my life. As rewarding as motherhood was for me, having an outlet for my feelings and something that was just my own made a world of difference to the endless days of diaper changing and bottle washing.
I continued to write more articles, submitting to some of the bigger parenting sites, all while creating my own blog and associated social media accounts to go with it. I got picked up by some and rejected by others. But, I always came back to that first site, the one that had first accepted me. I felt a sense of duty or loyalty to it because it had given me my start. There was also a very supportive and encouraging Facebook group attached to the site for writers that had been published on it. In that group I garnered some advice on how to pitch other sites, how to make memes and formed online friendships with other mom bloggers that were in a similar boat as me. We regularly chatted out of the group in PM’s and I even had plans to meet some of them in person.
The writing didn’t pay me much, but I was able to help cover a bill here and there. Also, I was able to beef up our Christmas fund for Santa Claus. The biggest reward was the commorardity of my fellow mom writers and the occasional message I’d receive from another pregnancy loss mom or autism mom, thanking me for putting into words what they could not. It made my heart feel good and gave me just the little boost of confidence I needed at the time. It felt good to help others by simply putting words on a computer screen.
Then it happened.
About a year in a half into identifying myself as a “mom blogger,” I had written a small post on my blog’s Facebook page about my husband. It was a few silly paragraphs strung together in reaction to him chasing our kids around with a big velociraptor head on. I took the picture, wrote the words, stuck it on my Facebook and also submitted it to the TODAY Parents writing platform and went to bed.
A few weeks later, TODAY Parents shared it on their Facebook page and it received over 6,000 shares in two days time.
By all definitions, it went viral.
It was my first time doing so. I had written a few things that had been picked up by other sites before, but this was the first time I was contacted by the big ones. It was shared across the web, on almost every parenting site, including the one that had given me my start. To say I was equal parts shocked and excited would’ve been an understatement. I was very appreciative, but honestly couldn’t figure out why a silly post about my husband had been the thing to take off when I had written about far more serious matters. Nonetheless, I was thankful.
In the days following, I was contacted by sites asking for permission to run it on their platforms. As I watched my words pop up on sites I had only dreamed of submitting to, I followed along and monitored where it was going and how the public was reacting to it.
Across every site there was one underlying thing that struck me. A woman, I’ll call her Sally for the sake of this story, had commented on every single place my article had been shared, including on my own blog’s Facebook post. Sally didn’t say how much the article reminded her of her husband like so many other women had across the web. Sally only left a link to another article, one with a similar title as mine. The article was actually one that had been run on my home site, the one that had given me my start, written by another writer a few months prior.
With my curiosity piqued, I clicked on Sally’s Facebook page, and saw that she was clearly very good friends with a writer that was in the previously mentioned writers group. She was someone I had only interacted with a time or two on social media, but also a writer that I respected and even enjoyed her work.
It didn’t take me long to decipher that Sally, who was this author’s good friend, clearly thought that I had stolen something from her writer friend, let’s call her Valerie.
Disgusted by the thought of someone in my favorite writing community thinking that I was a plagiarizer, I immediately messaged Valerie to try and get to the bottom of the entire thing. What happened then still pisses me off when I think about it.
Valerie casually wrote me back between her meetings as a high school english teacher. She told me that she wasn’t aware of Sally’s comments, but that Sally likely thought I stole something from her piece. She then proceeded to tell me that plagiarism isn’t just the stealing of words, but also of ideas and that my piece about my husband, was obviously written with the same idea in mind as her own. Valerie then tried to tell me that it was customary in that particular writing group for one writer to reach out to another before penning a piece with a similar theme in mind. She added that she obviously didn’t think I had stolen her piece word for word, because clearly I had not heard from her lawyer.
My jaw about hit the floor and I didn’t know if Valerie was really that self-centered, delusional or really didn’t like the fact that my piece had gone viral and hers had not. I proceeded to tell her that I did not have time to read everyone’s pieces across that group each and every day, and that I had in fact not even read her article until her friend had shared it in the comments of my viral piece.
Let’s just say the conversation ended with her accusing me of stealing her idea but that I should still be a part of that writers group and go to a planned meetup of the writers of that page.
I was very upset by the entire thing. Then later that evening, Valerie and her other friends commented on a post in the team page and an unrelated plagiarism issue a different author had posted. Valerie and her gang poked fun of my situation, saying that you can’t just riff off of others’ pieces and call it your own. I wasn’t mentioned by name, but I was clearly the target for their comments.
I screenshot the comments and reached out to the admin.
The next day, all of the admins wrote me back and assured me that the post would be taken down and that they did not think that I had plagiarized the piece in anyway. One had even told me she had a similar thing happen to her once in the past.
While I appreciated their emails, nothing else was done about the situation.
I took the ball into my own court and posted a new piece on my blog about women needing to raise each other up and not break each other down. Valerie was quick to respond to it, with strong arm emojis and fist dabs. She was clearly keeping tabs on me, and from my point of view had began her campaign of bullying.
I backed out of the writers meetup. I wasn’t comfortable flying many states away to hangout amongst Valerie and her friends, and many other people she knew in real life, to feel ostracized and to be called something I was not. I didn’t want to walk into a room full of strangers and feel the need to defend myself.
So, as much as it sucked, I didn’t go to the meetup.
It came and went. I had all but moved on when another writer friend of mine that had attended the meetup reached out to me and told me that my name had been tossed around by Valerie and her squad, with the words “thief” and “ plagiarism” tossed in.
Valerie had continued her campaign against me at the meetup, speaking lies about the situation to other colleagues that I hadn’t had the chance to shake hands with in person yet. She turned some of my favorite online friends against me and came out smelling like a rose in the eyes of the website owners.
Up until then only a handful of people had known about the plagiarism accusation. I had kept it under wraps the best I could out of fear of a negative kickback in regards to my good name in the parenting writers community. Even though I was innocent, and could prove so, I didn’t want the added drama or negativity associated with it.
That all changed when I found out about Valerie dragging my name through the mud at the writers meetup.
That night I reached out to the supposed friends I had formed online via the group, and asked them why they didn’t defend me to Valerie. Some of them blocked me and others basically called me a coward for not going. These women, some of which I had shared my personal struggles and stories about my children with, they all turned on me.
In that moment, red faced with puffy eyes from crying so hard, I posted in that writer’s group Facebook page, what had happened to me just months prior. I spoke of the accusation, the friendships and opportunities that it had cost me, and also the personal toll it took on me not only as a writer, but as a human being with real feelings.
Within minutes I received ten, fifteen, twenty messages from writers within that group. Some I had never even spoken with. They were concerned. They wanted to know who I was talking about. Though I had shielded Valerie’s real name on any public discussion of the incident, when these writers messaged me, I told them her real name. I told them my version of events. I told them the feelings of shame, hurt and doubt this woman had caused me. I had every right to tell my side of the story. I was done keeping quiet.
The post within the group was removed swiftly, with a sweet message from one of the admins asking me to have a chat with her tomorrow.
In the days following, I posted on my own blog what had happened to me, with even more messages from other writers, some of which figured out who Valerie was by themselves just because of her attitude online. Some messages were out of concern, some were feeling me out to see what I was going to do next, and others were just out of curiosity.
Finally, the admin of the site came on the FB writers group. She must have gotten wind about the infighting within the group. Basically, without mentioning names, she said to take the drama out of the group and that both sides were loved and appreciated within the writing community. She did this all while giggling and cracking jokes with people commenting on the video.
I did a live explaining exactly what had happened to me. I didn’t use names, but I was very blunt and open about the drama I had been battling within the confines of that group.
Next, the social media manager for the site reached out to me to “see how I was doing,” when in reality she wanted to tell me that I was making a mistake on social media by writing and speaking about what had happened to me. In return, I told her that I would not be quieted. She told me she had wished I had come to the admin team with this sooner, to which I reminded her I had in the months prior to the meetup. That conversation ended with me alerting her to the fact that the site was going to continue to lose contributors based on their lack of involvement in internal matters and by letting people like Valerie bully and drive away talented writers. She wished me the best and went about her day.
Amongst the messages I received were a few from other writers that have also been burned by this particular site. One had her words used without her permission across the site’s social media, and was never reimbursed financially for them. An editor from another parenting site, assured me that I was not the only writer to have been turned off by that site. She told me to keep writing and to never let my story go without being told. The editor also assured me that I always had a place on her site as a contributor.
Some of the writers I thought I had real connections with from that group sympathized with me. One even called me via Facetime for the first time to see my real face and hear my version of events for herself after being fed lies by Valerie at the meetup.
In the end Valerie took that community away from me. I’ve been exiled. My memes and blogs are no longer being shared by other writers with same niche pages. The messages stopped coming and I’m just left with my version of what happened and utter disgust for how this was handled.
The most terrible part about this is that I didn’t even steal anything. Not a word or a stanza.
I was a supporter of other’s words within that group, I contributed regularly and drew in some big views on most of my pieces, and this is what i have to show for it. I have to find a new tribe online. I have to defend myself to strangers. Valerie’s lies and finger pointed has cost me the chance at real life friendships and opportunities within the mom bloggers community. I was never targeted and bullied in middle school, but this is what teenage girls must feel like when it happens to them. It’s awful.
But, I’m here. I’m not going anywhere. I will tell my story until I’m blue in the face and the cows come home because someone has to so that it never happens to another mama that decides to put pen to paper and release a piece of her heart onto the internet.
Author’s note: All names have been changed for privacy. Any resemblance to people, places or situations are purely coincidental. All rights reserved.