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English student presents fantasy novella, product of summer research

By Logan Hill, Staff Writer

Thursday evening in Room 101 of Hamilton Smith, University of New Hampshire junior Hannah Drake read an excerpt from her fantasy novella, “A History of Sadness.” Last year, Drake applied for and received a grant from the Hamel Undergraduate Research Center to write her novella and spent eight weeks of her summer on it.

She approached one of her professors, Clark Knowles, and asked him if he would be her mentor as she proposed this grant and if she continued with the project. With three weeks before the deadline, Drake wrote her eight-page proposal for the Student Undergraduate Research Fellowship for her idea for a young adult fantasy novella. She was accepted for the grant and set to work writing.

“I tried to write for two or three hours a day,” Drake said.

The writing process turned out to be a learning experience for Drake, as she saw that it wasn’t a straightforward process, with a lot of editing and a lot of time spent writing.

Drake wanted to write a meaningful fantasy novella with accessible, human characters.

“I wanted to write something funny, something dark, something that addresses things people deal with on a daily basis,” Drake said. 

For her novella, Drake said she was partly inspired by the “Harry Potter” book series by J.K. Rowling. What she created was “A History of Sadness,” a fantasy novella set in a semi-magical world. The plot involves a character who gets a curse-like illness called “the sadness,” and the novella discusses the stigmatization of the disease and the effect it has on a victim and their loved ones.

“The inspiration for ‘the sadness’ was the prejudice surrounding mental illness in our society,” she said.

Drake is a junior English and international affairs dual major with a minor in Spanish. This isn’t her first grant from the Hamel Center for Undergraduate Research, as she received one in the spring of 2013 for creative non-fiction writing.

Drake wrote a blog called “Zen and a Pen: Adventures in Writing and Yoga” under this grant, documenting her personal challenges and goals in the practice of yoga.

“I think people should utilize the Hamel Center more; there’s a lot of money and experience there,” Drake said.

Through her experience on this novella, Drake became a better writer and learned that fiction writing probably won’t be her primary work for the rest of her life.

“It’s a lonely practice; it was difficult not being around people,” Drake said.

Drake and her roommate Julie Riley have been writing a humor and college blog together since last September, called Hannah and Julie (at

Drake is shifting her personal focus to her social media marketing work, but will continue to work on her novella, blog and other writing as well.

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