Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

I thought I’d commemorate the day by making a blog post, though, to the best of my knowledge, none of the principles in it are Irish. (Yes, I know St. Crispin was the Irish patron saint of shoemakers, and that the Battle of Agincourt was fought on St. Crispin’s Day, but I’m not of Irish extraction. Mostly Welsh, according to my dad’s genalogical research, with some German. I married the name “Crispin” and began writing using it. By the time of my divorce, it was too late to try and change my writing name.)

I thought you might e interested in hearing about the only time I’ve ever had a face to face meeting with a known writing scammer. I still laugh when I remember that day.

You see, once upon a time the guy running a bogus writing contest tried to bribe me into keeping mum about his chicanery.

If the name “Mitchell Gross” or “Mitchell Graham isn’t familiar to you, check it out on Writer Beware’s blog.

So here we have both myself and Mitchell Gross, aka Mitchell Graham, both guests at Dragoncon about ten years go. Gross is the guy who set up the Merrill Writing Contest, with a $5000 prize, and hired prominent s.f. writer Ben Bova to judge it. Trouble was, there was only one entry…Mitchell’s own. So of course Ben declared the sole entrant to be the winner, which was according to the rules. (Ben thought this odd, but rules are rules, and most writers aren’t as scam conscious as Victoria and I are.)

So Mitchell Graham won his own contest. Writer Beware did a lot of computer searching and tracing before we were able to link the contest with Mitchell’s own financial projects, because it was pretty hidden. We also verified that it had no link (as had been implied to us) to Merrill Lynch.

Aha. When I went to DragonCon that year, I was on a panel with Mitchell, the brand new shiny contest winning author who’d just had his brand new “award winning” book released from HarperCollins. Matter of fact, I sat next to him. When time came for me to do my usual brief Writer Beware summary, I was careful to mention that the “Merrill Company’s” contest was bogus and by all means don’t send them any entries. I didn’t look at Mitchell when I said it, but I stationed a friend in the second row with orders to watch his expression. The moment I said it, his face took on a startled, then panicky expression, then smoothed out very quickly. Con artists get good at that.

Heh heh, I thought. So he knows we’re on to him. He won’t attempt to bilk anyone else with his “contest.” And he didn’t.

But that’s not the end of the story. I had barely walked in the door from DragonCon, when my home phone rang. It was Mitchell.

“Say, Ann, I found your cellphone case right below where you were sitting. Did you miss it yet?”

“Can’t be mine,” I said.

“Oh, you need to check,” Mitchell insisted. “I’m sure I saw it with you while we were sitting there. And there’s $500 bucks in the front compartment. I’ll send it right up to you, Fed Ex. You’ll have it tomorrow.”


For a moment I was struck by the sheer ballsiness of a guy who assumed everyone was as dishonest as he is. Then I shook my head, and grinned. “Nope, Mitchell. Can’t be mine. I don’t have a cellphone case.”

“Are you sure?” he sounded less sure of himself, now.

“Yes, positive,” I said. “Oh…and congratulations on winning such a…prestigious…contest.”

Silence on the other end. Then he said, quietly, “Thank you.”

“I have to go now,” I said, gently, with an evil smile. “Bye.”

And that was my only face to face encounter with a writing scammer. Of course, since that time, Mitchell has gone on to bigger and better scams. See the link I posted.

-Ann C. Crispin
Chair, Writer Beware

3/17/2012 12:46 PM