Ferrets, Florists and Good Writing

The Cassie Edwards debacle is being beat to death, I know but I just had to post on this one more time. I was trying not to be too judgemental about her...err... talent, since I never read her books. However, there are enough snippets online now to get a sense of her style.

One of the writers she stole from is Paul Tolme, a journalist who writes about conservationism. Paul wrote about his experience of being plundered by Edwards in this article. You really should read it. He's such a good sport about it. In the article, Tolme provides the scene in Edwards' novel where his words are used. The couple, after making love, discuss black footed ferrets. It's weird to say the least. These two have just had a passionate night and they cap it off with some scientific banter on ferret research and, I kid you not, land bridge theory. It's 1850. Tolme himself says it's "clunky and awkward". If I had written it, it would have gone something like this:

"Oh look, a ferret. How adorable."
"And tasty too." He reaches for his rifle.
"Wonderful." She stretches lazily. "I worked up quite an appetite last night." Wink, wink. Nudge, nudge.

Tolme gives the excerpt from his article on the plight of the black footed ferret in South Dakota and it's not bad. Probably because it's what you expect an article about ferrets to be, information on what they eat, where they live, what they do all day. That's not what you'd expect in a romance novel. Edwards tries to bonk readers over the head with facts. Maybe it's in an effort to look knowledgeable, but it just reads awful.

A complete 180 is Carol Shields Larry's Party which I'm currently reading. There is a scene where Larry is thinking about flowers. Larry, a florist, starts his workday buying flowers from a wholesaler. It's a fact laden scene and in another author's hands dull as dishwater, but I was riveted. It works for a lot of reasons. First, we're in Larry's head, no doubt about it. These are his thoughts. I can see Larry walking around touching the leaves, smelling the flowers and this is never said. I can just see it. It also says something about Larry. He knows his stuff and he takes pride in knowing it. I also know that Larry is trying not to think of his unhappy home life. Just before this scene Larry is thinking about how his wife is too busy for him. All this flower stuff is a distraction. The final thing that got me was one sentence on roses. Larry doesn't care for roses but brides love them: "Winnipeg roses originate in southern Ontario, where they've got acres of them under glass." They're popular but ordinary. That says something about Larry. He hates the ordinary and his life is as ordinary as it comes.

Where Edwards uses facts as filler, Shields uses them to say something about her character. That's good writing.

Photo: US Fish and Wildlife Service


  1. In 1991, when I was a college professor, I had to deal with plagiarism in student papers. In 2002, when I was an eighth grade teacher, I had to deal with plagiarism in student papers. In 2005, when I was teaching a writing class to homeschoolers, I had to deal with plagiarism in student papers. All students need to be taught what plagiarism is, and that it is wrong. It can be a hard lesson, and students get defensive when you catch it, but they have to learn. It would seem that a popular author like Cassie Edwards is setting a very bad example.

  2. Cassie Edwards may have saved my marriage by helping me see the light. I now realize that all my years of post-sex conversation have been dull and uninformative. All that wasted time! I cringe in embarassment. Thanks to Ms. Edwards, things are gonna change in the old Bybee bedstead. (Note to myself: Move science encyclopedia and copies of National Geographic to the nightstand.)

  3. Rob- A bad example: Yes. She's supposed to be professional. She should know better.

    Bybee- LOL! You are too funny!


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