Pipsqueak Articles

Posts written by Olga Werby or Christopher Werby

Evolution of Empathy

Cows in Moonlight by Ohara Koson 1927

It’s Valentine’s Week and I thought to remark on empathy. First, a bit of a definition. Sympathy is when you relate to the emotional states of others. Usually, we sympathize with someone’s pain and suffering. It’s common to express (or invoke) our sympathies when someone is in a hospital or when a person we know had died. There is a whole industry dedicated to sympathy expression — flowers, cards, food, etc. Empathy is different. We might express sympathy for someone accidentally hitting their hand with a hammer, it’s a polite thing to do. But when we empathize with that person, we feel their pain. That’s a whole order of difference in our perception and understanding of the emotional and physical conditions of others. We can express sympathy without feeling any empathy. Thus sympathy is a social, cultural construct. Empathy is a true internal emotion. Empathy is something that takes time to develop. Human babies are not born empathizers. But those who learn empathy, somehow, truly become human then. For the longest time, scientists didn’t believe that any other animals other than humans were capable of feeling empathy. Of course, anyone who has ever had a pet or observed animal behavior…

Memory Strings

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Our lives are filled with objects and memories we collect on our journeys. It is almost like there are strings of emotions that tie us to our lives’ cabinet of curiosities. It is almost uncanny how stepping into someone’s house and seeing their possessions and their arrangement to each other tell a story of that person’s life. We can make a lot of very accurate guesses about the personalities, passions, and drives of the people by how and with what they choose to surround themselves with in their own homes. A small antique toy found in a little Paris shop, a newspaper clipping posted to the refrigerator that is a reminder of a funny incident from childhood, a giant salad bawl that had to sit on the lap for the six-hour flight home, a cute sweater that is too small but was once borrowed from a dear friend, a book that made a difference during dark times, even a little button that sits alone for over a decade waiting for the discovery of the item of clothing it belongs to — all the strange little collections of flotsams that accumulate over the course of daily living that become dear to…

Holiday Thread

2021_Happy_Winter_Topper

I follow an Iranian woman on Instagram that demonstrates in short videos her embroidery techniques. She does beautiful work — intricate flowers, leaves, curlycues, snowflakes. Her pigment choices are amazing and she does very detailed art in that multicolored thread. I know how to sew and I had a vague idea of how to embroider — I mean I can pull off a flower or a leaf if I had to. But my “knowledge” of embroidery comes from extrapolating what I know about sewing and guessing at the rest. But this woman is actually a master of this skill. And by watching her for a few seconds here and there doing her art, I realized that thread conservation is an important part of embroidery! Not only is beautiful thread expensive (e.g. gold thread), but the bulk that would be added to the material by doing the design on both sides would be awkward. Double-sided embroidery would mess up the delicate expression of the final piece of art. So there is more to this skill than I realized at first blush. Many crafts require expertise that is hidden from casual view. In many cases, the achievement of effortless grace is anything…

2021 Self-Published Science Fiction Competition

Writing is a very solitary activity. You sit alone for hours, lost in your own thoughts, hopefully putting some words down on a page. And at some point, if you are lucky, you will finish a story you set out to write or, more accurately, you will finish a story that came out as a surprise and not at all what you expected. So far, I have managed to do this repeatedly. And some of my stories went on to win competitions. So today I will write about one such competition — the very first Self-Published Fiction Competition! 300 books. 10 blogs (judges). It will take a full year to determine one supreme winner, but a few quarter-finalists have already been selected. Yours truly has made the list of quarter-finalists with Harvest. You can read more about books from my block of Book Blog of Judges at Tar Vol on. The SPSFC trophy is pretty cool, too… This is not the first time I have participated in such competitions. I entered God of Small Affairs into a similar competition but for fantasy, SPFBO. It earned a semi-finalist status: So here’s hoping for another success! In the meantime, writers that are…

The Dance

The Russian Bride’s Attire by Konstantin Makovsky

From Russia With Love This month, I’ve teamed up with a few other indie writers who wrote stories set in Russia. There are just the seven of us, and I hope you check out our stories. I, of course, have a novel Twin Time that is set in Old Pre-Revolutionary Russia. If you click the link here, you will get to my blog that has the first few chapters free. Or you can see the whole Russian collection here: October seems like a good month to spend between the pages of stories that drop you in the middle of the cold, exotic, and thrilling faraway places. I hope you will find something good to pick up in this collection. Here’s a link to a little book trailer I’ve created for my book: The Dance I’ve published over a million words in the 14 years I’ve been writing novels. For each word I’ve written, I’ve consumed thousands. And the more I write, the more treasures I find in other people’s writing. It’s like being a botanist and visiting a forest. Everyone enjoys the beauty of walking nature trails, but a botanist spots things that remain hidden from most eyes. I am…

Mothers on The Hero’s Journey

Hero's Journey Illustration

A Common YA Fantasy Novel Plots: A bunch of kids lead perfectly ordinary lives. One day they learn that the universe is full of magic (or strange science) and if they don’t put down their homework right now (like right now!), everyone they know and love will suffer horribly (or the universe will come to an end, whichever happens first). Hard as they argue, their parents just won’t let them go out after bedtime to save the universe. So after endless texts back and forth, the friends decide to just finish their homework and go to bed. It’s a school night, after all. But in the middle of the night, they wake up and realize that it is up to them to save the world. They sneak out of their house, leave their parents and homework behind, and go out into the night. While wandering at strange times and in unfamiliar places, the friends meet a stranger that tells them he knows the way. The friends, sleep-deprived as they are, believe him and follow him to destinations unknown. The stranger makes the friends do more and more dangerous and crazy stuff. And these young adults do it just because the…

Women, Sex, and Plotlines

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I had this idea for writing a post about mothers and their children, but then I’ve decided that I’m too close to that subject at the moment and moved on to writing about sex. Sex sells, right? So here it goes: women, sex, and plotlines. Per statistica.com, 84% of romance readers are women. Obviously, that’s not a big surprise. I remember listening to a woman who was rhapsodizing about ebooks because she no longer needed to make covers to hide the fact she was reading romances on her subway rides to work. Ebooks hide lots of unique reading preferences behind their bland consumer electronics facades. And what people say they read and what they actually buy is quite revealing. The most popular answer to what genre you like to read is mystery/crime/thriller. And yet romance/erotica is by far the most profitable category at $1.44 billion, while crime/mystery came a distant second at $728.2 million. You’d be shocked, shocked to learn that people lie about what they love to read (or do). And while we are focusing a bit on statistics, here’s an interesting tidbit: engineers did research on what kinds of search relating to sex do women do as opposed…