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GrubStreet, Boston-area writing center of ‘Who Is The Bad Art Friend?’ says it’s launching a review after NYT story

GrubStreet and Porter Square Books are sharing a new space in the Seaport.Pat Greenhouse/Globe Staff

GrubStreet, the Boston-area creative writing center attended by two writers embroiled in a years long plagiarism dispute, said Tuesday it will investigate after a viral story by The New York Times detailed the spat.

In “Who Is The Bad Art Friend?” the Times dissected the legal battle between Sonya Larson and Dawn Dorland that has ensued after Dorland accused Larson of plagiarizing a Facebook post she wrote in a short story. Both Larson and Dorland attended readings and workshops at GrubStreet, according to the Times.

“Bluntly, we are appalled by the disconnect between GrubStreet’s stated values and the alleged behavior by some that has come to light,” the statement read. “GrubStreet is meant to be a nurturing and supportive environment for all, a place where our creative work can thrive, and where we are each treated with care and respect. The events described in the article do not describe the environment we strive to create for everyone in our community.”

GrubStreet is hiring an expert to investigate the events, the statement continued.


“Recognizing that objectivity is paramount, we are engaging an independent expert to lead a process to gather information and conduct a full review of what happened,” the statement said. “Our community’s health depends on being grounded in high ethical standards and a culture where we can respectfully engage and embrace different perspectives in an inclusive manner.”

In 2015, Dorland chose to donate one of her kidneys — not to a specific recipient, but rather to someone on a transplant list who needed the organ. In a private Facebook group of friends, family, and writers from GrubStreet, she chronicled the journey, including at one point writing a letter to the recipient. Dorland claims Larson plagiarized that letter in the short story “The Kindest,” and she embarked on an extensive, still-brewing legal course to attain acknowledgment that a similar letter in Larson’s story contained Dorland’s words.


Larson maintained that Dorland’s kidney donation served as a point of inspiration for a story but said that the work is fiction, has an entirely different plot, and has denied plagiarizing the post.

“The Kindest” was set to be distributed to Boston residents as part of the Boston Book Festival’s One City One Story event in 2018 before Dorland escalated the legal proceedings, prompting the festival to cancel the event altogether.

GrubStreet’s statement comes after the Times piece ricocheted across the Internet, eliciting a number of opinions on the limits of artistic inspiration, the lengths to which a person can go to undermine someone else’s work, and the dynamics of a white woman seeking credit for the work of a woman of color in a story of white saviorism, among other topics.

Amanda Kaufman can be reached at amanda.kaufman@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @amandakauf1.