Accused of Plagiarism -- My Highest Compliment
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It seems to me that all writers, including those who deserve to be classified as geniuses, need encouragement, particularly in their early years. I always knew I could write, but that just meant I wrote a little better than the other kids in my classes. That I might one day write well enough to derive1 income from my efforts, oddly enough, never occurred to me during my grade school and high school years.

There was a particular teacher at Hyde Park High School in Chicago, Illinois, who, simply by concentrating her attention on me, made me believe that I might be able to master the knack2 of writing well enough to consider the craft as a profession. Her name was Marguerite Byrne, and she taught English, which, of course, involved writing skills. Whatever instruction she shared with me was exactly the same as all her other students enjoyed, but the difference was she encouraged me to begin the process of submitting things I was writing, in that day, chiefly poems.

To my surprise the Chicago Tribune not only thought enough of several of my verses to publish them, but also paid me -- inadvertently -- the highest compliment a fledging author can receive. The editor wrote a confidential3 letter to Miss Byrne, asking her to see, if by chance, one of her students -- a certain Stephen Allen -- might be guilty of plagiarism4. The editor’s suspicions had been roused because, he was kind enough to say, he found it hard to believe that a seventeen-year-old could create material on such a professional level.

When Miss Byrne shared the letter with me, I was ecstatic! It was wonderfully encouraging. Maybe I really as a writer, I thought.

Miss Byrne also encouraged me to enter a contest sponsored by the CIVITAN organization. The assignment was to write an essay titled "Rediscovering America." I was literally5 astonished when I received a letter saying that I was the winner of the contest. The prize was a check for one-hundred dollars and an invitation to an all-the-trimmings banquet at a hotel in downtown Chicago.

My mother, at the time, was not even aware that I was interested in writing, or if she had somehow found out about it, she took little notice. When I arrived back home tat evening, she didn’t ask how the evening had gone. I placed the one-hundred-dollar check on the breakfast table where she would see it when she awoke in the morning -- and went immediately to bed.

This scenario6 demonstrates the tremendous impor-tance of giving young people caring attention and encouraging them to develop and practice such gifts as they might have. Years later, I was able to repay my debt to Marguerite Byrne by dedicating one of my books, Wry7 on the Rocks -- A Collection of Poems, to her.

On the other hand, without encouragement talented students may never be motivated to learn, develop skills, or reach their full potential. For example, at the same high school, there was a teacher whose Spanish language classes I attended but from whom I, unfortunately learned very little simply because of the woman’s cold sarcastically8 critical attitude. She seemed to know nothing about encouraging students, and she was gifted speaking contemptuously of those of us who weren’t learning fast enough. Her negativism drove me away. Partly because of this teacher’s negative influence, I am not fluent in Spanish today.

You see, I had already learned that one can derive instructive benefit from bad examples -- by avoiding that behavior. Alcoholism was a serious problem in my mother’s family. As a result of having seen enough examples of alcoholic9 excess in my childhood, I have never had any interest in drinking. The same applies to smoking. My poor mother was a two-pack a day victim of nicotine10 addiction11, and because of the endless clouds of smoke, the coughing, the overfilled ashtrays12, and the ugly smell of cigarette smoke in the house and in my clothing, I have never smoked a cigarette in my life.

Again, young writers need to be encouraged. Because of Miss Byrne’s influence, I have enjoyed a lifetime writing books, songs, and TV scripts. And guess what? I haven’t plagiarized13 a single word of any of it.


1 derive hmLzH     
  • We derive our sustenance from the land.我们从土地获取食物。
  • We shall derive much benefit from reading good novels.我们将从优秀小说中获得很大好处。
2 knack Jx9y4     
  • He has a knack of teaching arithmetic.他教算术有诀窍。
  • Making omelettes isn't difficult,but there's a knack to it.做煎蛋饼并不难,但有窍门。
3 confidential MOKzA     
  • He refused to allow his secretary to handle confidential letters.他不让秘书处理机密文件。
  • We have a confidential exchange of views.我们推心置腹地交换意见。
4 plagiarism d2Pz4     
  • Teachers in America fight to control cheating and plagiarism.美国老师们努力对付欺骗和剽窃的问题。
  • Now he's in real trouble.He's accused of plagiarism.现在他是真遇到麻烦了。他被指控剽窃。
5 literally 28Wzv     
  • He translated the passage literally.他逐字逐句地翻译这段文字。
  • Sometimes she would not sit down till she was literally faint.有时候,她不走到真正要昏厥了,决不肯坐下来。
6 scenario lZoxm     
  • But the birth scenario is not completely accurate.然而分娩脚本并非完全准确的。
  • This is a totally different scenario.这是完全不同的剧本。
7 wry hMQzK     
  • He made a wry face and attempted to wash the taste away with coffee.他做了个鬼脸,打算用咖啡把那怪味地冲下去。
  • Bethune released Tung's horse and made a wry mouth.白求恩放开了董的马,噘了噘嘴。
8 sarcastically sarcastically     
  • 'What a surprise!' Caroline murmured sarcastically.“太神奇了!”卡罗琳轻声挖苦道。
  • Pierce mocked her and bowed sarcastically. 皮尔斯嘲笑她,讽刺地鞠了一躬。
9 alcoholic rx7zC     
  • The alcoholic strength of brandy far exceeds that of wine.白兰地的酒精浓度远远超过葡萄酒。
  • Alcoholic drinks act as a poison to a child.酒精饮料对小孩犹如毒药。
10 nicotine QGoxJ     
  • Many smokers who are chemically addicted to nicotine cannot cut down easily.许多有尼古丁瘾的抽烟人不容易把烟戒掉。
  • Many smokers who are chemically addicted to nicotine cannot cut down easily.许多有尼古丁瘾的抽烟人不容易把烟戒掉。
11 addiction JyEzS     
  • He stole money from his parents to feed his addiction.他从父母那儿偷钱以满足自己的嗜好。
  • Areas of drug dealing are hellholes of addiction,poverty and murder.贩卖毒品的地区往往是吸毒上瘾、贫困和发生谋杀的地方。
12 ashtrays 642664ae8a3b4343205ba84d91cf2996     
烟灰缸( ashtray的名词复数 )
  • A simple question: why are there ashtrays in a no-smoking restaurant? 问题是:一个禁止吸烟的餐厅为什么会有烟灰缸呢?
  • Avoid temptation by throwing away all cigarettes, lighters and ashtrays. 把所有的香烟,打火机,和烟灰缸扔掉以避免引诱。
13 plagiarized ae23b24883b28ef0cdc582b6a56b216c     
v.剽窃,抄袭( plagiarize的过去式和过去分词 )
  • The poem employs as its first lines a verse plagiarized from a billboard. 这首诗开头的几行抄袭了一个广告牌上的一节诗。 来自辞典例句
  • Whole passages of the work are plagiarized. 那作品整段整段都是剽窃的。 来自辞典例句