In Honor of National Library Week: Keith Richards, Rock-n-Roll Librarian

Keith Richards, Rolling Stones Voodoo Loungue World Tour, Rio de Janeiro, 1995 (photo is in public domain, courtesy of Machocarioca)

Keith Richards, Rolling Stones Voodoo Loungue World Tour, Rio de Janeiro, 1995 (photo is in public domain, courtesy of Machocarioca)

When you are growing up there are two institutional places that affect you most powerfully: the church, which belongs to God, and the public library, which belongs to you. The public library is a great equalizer.
— Keith Richards

The Rolling Stones' Keith Richards: Rocker outlaw...guitar god...bookworm

This will either surprise you or make you jealous: Keith Richards has extensive personal libraries in both of his Sussex and Connecticut homes. In fact, he has so many books that he once considered "professional training" to better manage his vast collection. Yes, dear reader, rock-n-roll bad-boy Keith Richards dreamed of becoming a librarian.

Keith and the Dewey Decimal System

Once upon a time, Keith was painstakingly arranging copies of rare books about the history of early American rock and World WarII. He was applying the standard Dewey Decimal classification system (possibly fortified with a glass of vino or a little ganja -- although he no longer does "the hard stuff" Keith is quoted as saying he's still fond of wine and weed). Whatever he might have been imbibing, he nevertheless felt overwhelmed with his massive book classification project, at which point he seriously considered becoming a librarian.

Can you imagine being shushed by Keith Richards?  Or what it would be like going to the reference desk...and there's Keith Richards?

Although he'd probably be super cool about books turned in late; after all he once owed libraries 50 years worth of fines.

The Saga of Keith and the Overdue Library Books

Keith Richards Owes '50 Years' of Library Fines (Huffington Post)

Library offers to waive Keith Richards' £3000 fine if he drops in for visit (Mirror)

Keith Richards pardoned by library for books overdue for more than 50 years ( 


Rock on. Read on.

Litigation Stress: How It Can Affect Characters in Your Story

Maximillian Schell, defense attorney in "Judgment at Nuremberg"

Maximillian Schell, defense attorney in "Judgment at Nuremberg"

Writing a story revolving around a lawsuit, or you have a scene or two set in a courtroom? People in litigation, especially those under the stress of being the defendant or even the plaintiff, are often portrayed as "stressed" in such scenes, but their reactions and symptoms are more complex than that.

In fact, there's a term, litigation stress syndrome, for the symptoms people might suffer from intense, especially prolonged litigation. But before that term was another, malpractice stress syndrome, that we'll look at first.

Medical Profession: Malpractice Stress Syndrome

Malpractice stress syndrome refers to the symptoms physicians, nurses and other health professionals have suffered after being sued for malpractice.

According to Karen Kohatsu, MD, she had been confident that she would prevail in a malpractice suit brought against her, but during the litigation process she experienced isolation, inability to sleep and other stress-related symptoms until the lawsuit was eventually dismissed. "Self-doubting occurs when you read the summons and depositions from the other side," Kohatsu said. "The other side makes it sound like you are a terrible person for missing a diagnosis. You feel really alone and have to turn everything inward because you don't have anyone to talk about it."

Litigation Stress = Stages of Grief, PTSD

handcuffed hands.jpg

Many of us have seen movies, TV shows or read books that depict people going through the upheaval of a lawsuit -- some psychologists compare those reactions and symptoms to the 5 stages of grief, others compare them to PTSD, or post-traumatic stress syndrome. "The feelings rank in intensity with the death of a loved one, going through a divorce or the onset of a life-threatening illness," said one physician.

Five Stages of Grief

These stages of grieving, as outlined by psychiatrist Elisabeth Kübler-Ross, are:

  1. Denial

  2. Anger

  3. Bargaining

  4. Grief

  5. Uncertainty

Outcome of Lawsuit

If the outcome of the lawsuit is favorable: renewal, rebuilding, and personal growth.

If the outcome of the lawsuit is unfavorable, denial, bargaining, depression, and other complications can result.

Legal Abuse Syndrome

Karen Huffer, a therapist, has coined another term, Legal Abuse Syndrome, that occurs when people suffer through long, protracted litigation where their Constitutional rights were violated. For example, in a recent case in our state a judge failed to read instructions to the jury. When defense noted that the judge had forgotten to read the instructions, the judge countered that the defense was wrong. Later, in a review of the court transcripts, it was seen that the judge had never read the instructions. Can you imagine how the defendant felt, watching his Constitutional rights being trampled on by a judge?

Huffer describes the symptoms of legal abuse syndrome as including:

  • Feeling deeply disillusioned or oppressed by the legal system
  • Frustrated with efforts to effect justice
  • Experiencing nightmares, exhaustion, vulnerability

Family's Responses

Not Guilty" by Abraham Solomon, 1859, Getty's Open Content Program

Not Guilty" by Abraham Solomon, 1859, Getty's Open Content Program

It's not only the litigant who suffers from litigation stress, but also that person's family. Spouses and children can experience a deep sense of loss, devastation, and social awkwardness. Part of this is due to the restriction that no one can "speak about the lawsuit" to anyone else.

How Long Do the Symptoms Last?

In "The Psychological Impact of Litigation," a 2006 article in the DePaul Law Review, authors Edward J. Hickling, Edward B. Blanchard and Matthew T. Hickling, wrote the following statistics on lingering symptoms of litigation stress, which they too equate to PTSD:

In our research, we found that about forty-eight percent will show an improvement in symptoms by six months so they no longer meet diagnosis for PTSD, and by one year about sixty-five percent will show improvement. After that, our data shows that without intervention, there are very few people who will improve any further. Other studies have shown that for as long as six years, even with treatment, over forty percent of the victims will remain symptomatic.

Symptom-Free Litigants

Then there are those litigants who are symptom free. Sandra Tunajek, in her 2007 article "Dealing with Litigation Stress Syndrome," states that while such non-symptoms "may be a form of denial, further research is determine the factors (i.e., available peer support, shared disclosure by peers, previous claims, successful defense, etc.) that may offer protection against litigation stress syndrome."

Whether you're writing about a defendant accused of a crime, a plaintiff seeking financial compensation, or how a litigant's family is coping (or not), hopefully this article provides some background, stats and ideas!

Happy writing, Colleen

Put together with the user in mind, this intelligently organized handbook for practicing writers will make you sound like a practicing lawyer.
— Warwick Downing, former DA and author "The Widow of Dartmoor"

Colleen Collins's current nonfiction book, co-authored with Shaun Kaufman, is A Lawyer's Primer for Writers: From Crimes to Courtrooms. 


#WritingTips Guidelines for Testifying in Court

I originally wrote this article for PI Magazine's December 2010 issue. These guidelines were written with private investigators in mind and provide handy info if you have a private eye character who must testify in court.

The section under "To be most effective when testifying" has tips for any character who's taking the stand at a trial. Or turn a tip or two upside down and make a more conflict-filled situation in your scene!

Ten Tips for Testifying in Court

by Colleen Collins, All Rights Reserved

The ultimate presentation of an investigation is testifying in court, either before a judge or a judge and jury. The idea is to make an effective, articulate and organized impression on the fact-finder (the judge or jury).

If, as a PI, you were hired by an attorney, together the two of you will most likely prepare your testimony directly from the investigative reports you authored. Keep in mind that the reports themselves are not presented as evidence because they meet the definition of hearsay; however, well-written, clear, and informative reports support the testimony and help the lawyer immeasurably.

If you were hired by a citizen, you need to make sure they read your reports. The burden is on you to make sure your client’s questions are organized, written down, and that they have rehearsed their direct examination of you.

To be most effective when testifying:

  • Make eye contact with the jurors. If you look at the attorney when answering questions, it might look as though you’re unsure of what you’re saying or that you’re asking for help.

  • Answer yes or no whenever possible.

  • Never explain an answer, nor volunteer anything!

  • Provide adequate detail, but scrupulously avoid being mired in too much detail

  • Avoid equivocal or qualified answers.

  • Dress professionally. Studies have shown that the colors blue (for men) and black (for women) make them appear more believable. (For more tips on attire, check out "Tips for What to Wear to Court")

  • Use simple terms, common language.

  • Be mindful of a jury's sense of fairness.

  • Know the facts, but don’t repeat the testimony word for word as though it were memorized.

  • (This tip applies specifically to PIs) Don’t bring your investigative file to court. Anything you have in your hand (whether you’re on the stand or in court) can be admitted into evidence at the request of opposing counsel. On the other hand, think how it could bump up the stakes if a file carried into court becomes evidence...even more interesting, what if the PI-character had planned that all along.

    Perhaps the most important tip is to remain respectful of the court, the judge, the opposing counsel, and especially yourself. 

It's Saturday - Time for #SaturdayLibrarian!

I'm such a fangirl of #SaturdayLibrarian. I start my day reading them each Saturday, laughing and pondering and emitting more than a few "aw-w-w-w"s at librarians' stories.

I also added some pix of libraries taken by Carol Highsmith, a distinguished photographer who has donated all of her photos to the Library of Congress, copyright-free. 

Without further ado, here's a batch of the latest and greatest...

Best of Today's #SaturdayLibrarian (So Far)

From my fave @LousyLibrarian: The sun is shining, the birds are singing, the children's area is bedlam, the men's room is a biohazard. #saturdaylibrarian

And one more (although it's technically #FridayLibrarian)...@LousyLibrarian: Zayn is leaving One Direction and people cry. Very similarly, I realize that I'm probably never leaving this reference desk, and I cry.

Library on the Go and Read Rover, part of the mobile library serivice for the Public Library System in Baltimore County, MD (photo by Carol Highsmith)

Library on the Go and Read Rover, part of the mobile library serivice for the Public Library System in Baltimore County, MD (photo by Carol Highsmith)

And one more...@LousyLibrarian: "But what if I don't want to bring it back to the library?" "Then that's stealing, and let me welcome you to a thrilling life of crime."

From @amydieg: down 2 staff so only 3 staff in the building today. rainy out, which usually means a busy day. buckle down folks its #saturdaylibrarian time

From @ChardinTweets#saturdaylibrarian goals: set up new book display, locate missing Belgian ambassador, exorcise moveable stack shelving...

From @siouxieque: Computer system is down, movie party in the book sale room, firemen's pancake breakfast. Omg. #saturdaylibrarian

From @booklovergeek: "You probably won't know the answer to this" - You underestimate my powers...#saturdaylibrarian #StarWars 

From @vodalrymple: Snowing out and we are out of chocolate. Send help. #saturdaylibrarian

Once the main branch of the Palm Springs, CA, public library system - now a private, non-profit library run by volunteers (photo by Carol Highsmith)

Once the main branch of the Palm Springs, CA, public library system - now a private, non-profit library run by volunteers (photo by Carol Highsmith)

From @HeartofGoldLib: Surprise! No one cleaned the community room and we need to open early this morning for a senator's townhall meeting. #saturdaylibrarian

From @AaronWill13ms: You know it's a good day if you can successfully avoid calling the cops #saturdaylibrarian

From @lakesparrows: A couple just got married in special collections

From @librarianatrix: Now is the time of day when all the, er, "interesting" patrons appear. Porn-lookers, yellers, personal-space-intruders.  #saturdaylibrarian

From @theolibrarian: A big paper is due. Printing stations are few. Now the stapler is down. I repeat: stapler is down. #saturdaylibrarian #librarylife

The Carnegie Public Library in Bryan, TX - the oldest existing Carnegie Library in Texas (photo by Carol Highsmith)

The Carnegie Public Library in Bryan, TX - the oldest existing Carnegie Library in Texas (photo by Carol Highsmith)

More from @theolibrarian: Hour 6: Stapler still not stapling. Request submitted for new one but that won't save us now. #saturdaylibrarian

RT @catelibrarian: Patron thinks my shoes are too loud. Need to find tap shoes and wear them to work tomorrow. #saturdaylibrarian

From @CraftyMoni: ...there is a kid high on something singing along, loudly, to youtube videos. Imma hafta get shushy on his ass #saturdaylibrarian

From @lifeinoleg: Overheard child saying as he exited the library: "I LOVE these books." #librarylife #SaturdayLibrarian

Have a great Saturday, everyone...especially you #SaturdayLibrarians

#1000Speak Building from Bullying: Two True Stories

I learned today that tomorrow, March 20, is a blogging event for #1000Speak, an organization whose byline is "1000 Voices Speak for Compassion." Contributing bloggers are writing about looking at bullying from a positive viewpoint. My first reaction was, "Huh? How can bullying ever have a positive slant?"

I thought back to several incidences when my husband, or the two of us, dealt with bullies in our business life. After giving those experiences some thought, I realized that both ended up being constructive -- one in direct way, the other in a roundabout way.

Almost Caving in to a Bully's Demands

My husband practices criminal defense, and occasionally he will have a client who has a significant rap sheet. Sometimes Shaun isn't aware of the extent of these criminal histories until much later.

Mr. X was one such client. He wasn't happy that Shaun hadn't performed miracles in his case and demanded Shaun pay him back not only the full retainer, but three times that. We're talking extortion. Didn't matter that Shaun had worked many free hours above and beyond the retainer, Mr. X wanted money. A lot of it. Left a threatening message one day on my husband's car.

My husband grew concerned about our safety. I suggested he contact our good friend, a lawyer, and talk it over. This lawyer has practiced law nearly 40 years, just as his father had before him. After Shaun told him the story, the lawyer said, "He's bullying you. One thing about bullies, you need to call him on his bluff, not run scared and give in to his demands. Calmly agree to set up a formal mediation over the money he's attempting to extort. He won't like a reasonable, professional venue to air his threats because he likes working in the dark. Do this and he'll go away."

Which is exactly what happened. Just goes to show, no matter how old you are, you can still learn valuable life lessons.

Slipping, Sliding Toward a Bully

This is a lighter story, one that started out with what appeared to be a bullying situation.

My husband loves his cowboy boots. Wears them with his suits to court. One day he and a judge sang a Merle Haggard song together -- Shaun in his suit, the judge in his black robes -- both of them in their cowboy boots. Wish I'd been there to hear the song and to see the looks on people's faces in the courtroom!

A month or so ago, Shaun was walking downtown through snow and ice in his cowboy boots when he saw a police officer shove a man to the ground. Shaun didn't think twice, just starting running toward them, yelling "What's going on?" and waving his hands. He was on a mission to stop perceived violence. Problem is, those cowboy boots have slick soles.

He hit a patch of ice and and started sliding toward traffic, just as several police units squealed around the corner, lights flashing. Shaun kept slipping and sliding toward the busy street, unable to stop, his heart pounding, realizing he was going to be run the last minute, he grabbed onto a parking meter...and fell face down in a pile of snow between two parked cars, the whoosh of cars and crunching tires a foot or two from his head.

Strong arms helped him to his feet. It was the police officer who'd shoved the guy.  "You okay?" he asked. As Shaun brushed snow off his face and clothes, they talked. Shaun learned that the guy who had been shoved was a felon with an outstanding warrant. He'd turned violent, resisted arrest, and the officer had been trying to subdue him, not abuse him. Meanwhile, in the background, the felon was handcuffed and being placed in the backseat of one of the units.

Then, to Shaun's surprise, he learned the officer is a sergeant in the police department of a nearby jurisdiction where Shaun is moving his law practice. Even more small world, the sergeant is a former private investigator who worked for the lawyer whose office Shaun is taking over! Their paths will be crossing even more in the months and years to come.

Shaun ran to halt what he perceived to be bullying, but instead ran toward a valuable connection in his future. 

To read more stories with positive outcomes and lessons regarding bullying, check out the hastag #1000Speak on Twitter.

My New Saturday Addiction: Reading #SaturdayLibrarian

I look forward to Saturday mornings because that's when I read #SaturdayLibrarian, the tweets of dozens of librarians, some of which are snarky-hilarious. For your amusement and entertainment, below are a few choice tweets from this morning.

#SaturdayLibrarian: Read 'Em & Laugh

From @LousyLibrarian: First rule of #saturdaylibrarian: don't talk to the #saturdaylibrarian.

Another from @LousyLibrarian: "Do you have the book 'How To Kill a Mockingbird?'" "I'll look it up. I assume it's instructional. And disturbing." 

(I'm cheating a little here -- these next two are from Friday, but they're too good to not they're from the one and only @LousyLibrarian):

From @LousyLibrarianShake your sillies out or as God is my witness I will shake them out for you.* *Why they don't let me do storytimes

From @LousyLibrarian: It became clear when she took out her phone: asking for cat books was just a pretext to show me pictures of her cat. This I can't forgive.

(Now back to #SaturdayLibrarian...)

From @FakeLibStats: 34% of today's #saturdaylibrarian wanted to have a Pi day program but library administration said it was irrational

From @amydieg: 3yr old girl, out of the blue: "Compost is SO IMPORTANT."  #saturdaylibrarian

Another from @amydieg: Same girl is now appalled we do not have blankets in the library. #saturdaylibrarian

From @niee87: Kid runs up to a decorative mirror and pushes against it before announcing sadly, "Not magical." #librarylife #saturdaylibrarian

It’s funny that we think of libraries as quiet, demure places where we are shushed by dusty, bun-balancing, bespectacled women. The truth is, libraries are raucous clubhouses for free speech, controversy and community. Librarians have stood up to the Patriot Act, sat down with noisy toddlers and reached out to illiterate adults. Libraries can never be shushed.
— Paula Poundstone

From @This_Journey: Sometimes getting my rant down to 140 characters is more frustrating then the actual patron/problem. 

From @sarazet: Child looking at a display of sparrow eggs: "Are these DUCKBILL DINOSAURS??" #saturdaylibrarian

From @thesubliminator: Doing an Instrument Petting Zoo program today. So. Many. Trumpets. #SaturdayLibrarian #librarylife


I really must stop reading #SaturdayLibrarian tweets now...I mean, I have a life, right? (Back to reading  #SaturdayLibrarian tweets)

Have a great Saturday, Colleen


Before You Copy & Paste an Image, Think Copyright!

Last month, I commissioned a graphic artist to create a logo for my writing career and paid him for his talent and skill. To your left is the logo he created, for which I own the copyright. 

I don't think anybody would want to copy and paste this logo as my name is on it. If anyone was curious as to who owns the copyright, they could run a reverse image search via Google to see where the image pops up -- after matching the words on the logo (Colleen Collins Books) to the website name (, they would likely assume that I own the copyright, but to verify they could contact me via this site to ask. This is one example of locating a copyright holder. There's a free ebook link at the bottom of this post, written by a business attorney, which explains other ways to research copyrights among other topics about legally using images.

The Point Being...

Don't copy and paste without first checking if there is a copyright.

Otherwise, you might be violating copyright laws. I know, lots of people copy and paste stuff off the Internet, but sometimes people get caught and end up paying lots of money to lawyers and the copyright holders. That happened to romance writer Roni Loren a few years ago, and she wrote a blog about it: Bloggers Beware: You CAN Get Sued for Using Pics on Your Blog - My Story.

People Copying & Pasting A Copyrighted Image

A few years ago,I worked with another very talented graphic designer who had a background creating images for video games, comic books, TV and movies. Such a talented guy, and I was honored that he was willing to create a logo for me (a private eye sitting at a computer, an image I wanted to use for my book How to Write a Dick: A Guide for Writing Fictional Sleuths)

He and I brainstormed the image and worked together on several revisions -- one of our brainstorming sessions is shown in his sketches on the yellow piece of paper to your left.

I paid him for his expertise, and I now own the copyright for the final black-and-white image, located below the yellow page of sketches.

Unfortunately, people started freely copying and pasting the image into blogs, articles, books, Facebook pages, as avatars on forums, and other online places. I didn't know this until one day I ran a reverse search on the image, and oh showed up in several dozen Internet sites! I didn't work with a professional illustrator, and pay him for his services, for it to be an Internet freebie!

Copyright 2011 Colleen Collins - Do not copy or distribute without prior written permission.

Copyright 2011 Colleen Collins - Do not copy or distribute without prior written permission.

I Wrote a Cease and Desist Letter

My husband is a lawyer, so he helped me craft a cease and desist letter. I didn't want to play the heavy...I simply asked that the person credit the graphic. But if they did not wish to add a credit, then please remove it from their site.

Free Images in the Public Domain

There are numerous sources for professional images and illustrations that are free and within the public domain, and copying and pasting these images do not violate any copyright laws. Below are a few of these images. The two Japanese prints, the orange flowers and the man and goldfish, are via the Public Domain Review; all other images are courtesy of the Getty Museum Open Content Program:

Free eBook on How to Legally Use Images

The below ebook has more links to public domain images, plus it provides all kinds of useful information about types of copyrights, sources for researching copyright owners, even a sample permission-request letter to send to a copyright holder. Author is Helen Sedwick, a California business attorney and author:


Have a great week, Colleen