Tuesday, February 20, 2018

So Your Character is From New England ... Featuring Anna Haber @ The Story Scientist

It's time for this week's So Your Character is ... Post! This is a weekly segment where I interview lovely volunteers from around the world to give you a firsthand account of being a citizen of their respective country or having a disability. I'm hoping to encourage international diversity, break stereotypes, and give writers a crash course on how to write a character from these different places on our planet. If you haven't checked out last week's  So Your Character is from Alaska ... be sure to hop on over there and give it a read!

I had the privilege to meet Anna last year when she came down from New Hampshire to visit our mutual friend Olivia. It happened to have snowed recently and she was fascinated with Georgia red clay. I've loved reading her blog and learning about all things scientist. It's good research. ;) Thus, I'm so happy to have her on the blog to talk about her neck of the woods.

Disclaimer: The content below may be culturally shocking to some. Each of these posts is as uncensored as possible to preserve the authenticity of the cultures of each of the interviewees.

(None of the Images are Mine)

Anna Haber is a homeschool graduate and University of New Hampshire genetics major/plant nerd. She is the kind of person who tries to do everything at once. In her small amounts of spare time, she enjoys devouring books, writing speculative fiction, researching rice biochemistry, doing stained glass, and people-watching. Her two goals in life are to have a PhD and a published novel.

What do you feel is unique to your region? Landmarks? Celebrations?
Something that comes to mind is Patriots Day, which is celebrated in Maine and Massachusetts only on (I believe) the third Monday in April, to commemorate the Battle of Lexington and Concord (which was on April 19th, 1775). Massachusetts celebrates this holiday with the Boston Marathon because Lexington and Concord are in Massachusetts, and Maine celebrates because, well, they used to be part of Massachusetts. 

As far as landmarks, well, in Massachusetts, you can find a lot related to the Revolutionary War. For example, you can visit the Old North Bridge in Concord where shots were fired, and a lot of the other battlefields and so forth are part of Minute Man National Historical Park. We also have natural landmarks like the White Mountains in New Hampshire (my state!), including Mt. Washington, the Green Mountains in Vermont, and Acadia National Park and Sebago Lake in Maine. And there are a lot of cultural landmarks in Boston, such as the Museum of Fine Arts and Symphony Hall.

Tell me about your region's environment. What are some of your favorite places?
New England is made up of six states: Connecticut, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine. For just a small corner of the United States, we have a lot of great places to visit. Here’s a short list:
Acadia National Park (Mount Desert Island, Maine)
Mt. Washington (one of the White Mountains, New Hampshire)
Boston, Massachusetts, including the Liberty Trail (more on that later)
The Berkshires, Massachusetts
Four Ivy League universities: Dartmouth (NH), Harvard (MA), Yale (CT), and Brown (RI), plus the Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Sebago Lake, Maine

As far as the environment in general, well, it is the northern US. Winters get cold; I’ve gotten up in the morning and seen -13 Fahrenheit on the thermometer. (It’s probably gotten colder, but I can’t remember.) There are years when we get a five-foot base of snow, and then there are years when we don’t. Summer gets pretty hot, up into the nineties sometimes in late July and August, but definitely not as hot as the South. Spring and fall are pretty nice, and fall colors are beautiful. We get a lot of “leaf-peepers” going up to the White Mountains in the fall.

Tell me about your region's food. What are some of your favorite dishes?
Off the top of my head: clam chowder! New England clam chowder is a cream-based (or my family makes it with milk) chowder, sometimes with bacon in it, which only makes it better, of course. Seafood is also associated a lot with New England, especially lobster with Maine, but we’ve also gotten good crab meat on Mount Desert Island. I believe people also dig up clams, especially in Massachusetts. Maple syrup is produced a lot in early spring in at least New Hampshire and Vermont, and possibly in other states as well. If you get the chance to have maple candy, do it; it melts in your mouth, and it’s so sweet and delicious. 

Lastly, one of my favorites is blueberries. There are several blueberry farms in my area of southern NH where you can go pick your own, or you can buy canned wild blueberries from Maine. I love blueberry muffins, pies, blueberries on cereal, you name it. And they’re one of those “superfoods,” too; they have a lot of antioxidants that make them really healthy. What’s not to love?

Tell me about any different speech patterns in your region. Slang? Idioms? Words for things such as “biscuits” instead of “cookies”?
Ha. So. In New England, “wicked” is a synonym for “really.” As in, “That was wicked good” or just “That was a wicked storm.” I don’t believe you’ll hear this anywhere else; it is uniquely New England.

Also, Boston accents are a big thing, something I think people from other regions often get wrong. In the Boston accent, there are no “er” sounds; they become “ah” sounds instead. As in, “Pahk yah cah in Hahvahd Yahd” (“park your car in Harvard Yard”). Sometimes, short “a” sounds get turned into “er” sounds as well, as in “Toyoter a’ Pahtsmouth” or “Honder Bahn” (Toyota of Portsmouth and Honda Barn, two NH car dealerships whose radio commercials I hear daily).

Describe briefly a regular day in your region.
For me, since I commute to UNH, I get up at six or six-thirty, get ready (usually a packed lunch is in order), and drive out to Durham. The drive is really nice in the fall. I have my classes, do some research in between, come home, have dinner (sometimes have dinner at school depending on how late my classes go), study, then relax in front of the TV with my family. But my day is different from most. 

A lot of people from NH commute to Boston for work; a smaller portion (I think) commutes to Manchester, which is NH’s largest city, but not its capital. I’m honestly not too sure about the rest of the region, but I know a lot of people from all over NH, Massachusetts, and probably Rhode Island work in Boston. It’s kind of the economic center of the region. 

Kids go to school (most of them—there are some homeschoolers), and their days are probably different depending on the school. There are several high-end prep schools in the region; I can think of St. Paul’s and Phillips Exeter Academy in NH, and Phillips Andover in MA. There are also lots of public schools, like anywhere in the US, and various private schools (Montessori, Catholic, whatever).

How does your region compare to others, especially the States since my audience is primarily American? Environmentally? Politically? Culturally?
I think I’ve already mentioned the environment, in that New England is definitely part of the North. They say that if you don’t like the weather here, wait five minutes because it’ll change. (That’s an exaggeration, of course, but you get the idea.) 

Politically, New England is a fairly liberal region. That’s all I’m going to say about that. Demographically, we are not a terribly diverse region; New England is mostly white, although students come from all over the world to attend even state universities. Cities are more ethnically diverse, as usual. 

Culturally . . . it varies. I think we have some of everything. Whether you’re into sports or fine art (or both like me), you can find it here. Most of the sports are in Boston; a lot of people go around wearing New England Patriots (football) or Boston Red Sox (baseball) gear. Some have Boston Bruins (hockey) gear also. In baseball, there are also minor league teams scattered across the region. 

In “higher” culture, there are also many notable art museums, and Boston has a symphony orchestra. Like everywhere, there are upscale regions; Bedford and Portsmouth, New Hampshire come to my mind. And economically, skiing and tourism are both important. MA residents often head north to NH to ski or to the Lakes Region on weekends, or down to Cape Cod, MA.

Briefly describe three of your region’s historical events that you feel are important.
1) I’ve already mentioned the Revolutionary War. A lot of important events took place in Massachusetts, such as the “shot heard round the world” at Lexington and Concord, the Boston Tea Party, and the Battle of Bunker Hill. 

2) In 1620, the Puritans landed at Plymouth, Massachusetts, made a colony, and eventually had the first Thanksgiving. (You can still go see the rock that they supposedly landed on, but it’s just a rock in a cage. It’s not that exciting.)

It’s hard to pinpoint just one-third event that’s important since we have such a rich history. Here are three more things that stick out to me. The Industrial Revolution transformed New England’s economy in the 1800s from primarily farming to textile production; it’s left its legacy in mill buildings dotted all over cities like Manchester, NH and Lowell, MA (where there’s a national historic site about them). 

At the beginning of the 20th century, President Theodore Roosevelt served as the intermediary for the end of the Russo-Japanese War, leading to the little-known Treaty of Portsmouth that was signed in New England. And recently, in 2013, the Boston Marathon was bombed by two terrorists; I think that’s the first terrorist attack that ever happened in New England, and I remember a lot of Boston pride in the months following, with “Boston Strong” T-shirts appearing everywhere. Some of them still turn up occasionally.

What are some stereotypes about your region that irk you? What media portrays your region badly be it a movie, a book, or a TV show?
Something that immediately comes to my mind is the TV show M*A*S*H. In later seasons, the character Charles Emerson Winchester III is supposed to be from Boston, but his accent is nowhere near correct. He sounds more like a sophisticated British gentleman than a Bostonian. I think a lot of people get the Boston accent wrong.

What media portrays your region well be it a movie, a book, or a TV show?
I can’t think of much media that portrays New England at all, to be honest. I know the TV show Cheers takes place in Boston, but I’ve never seen it. I do know that there is an actual bar called Cheers in Boston, but never having seen the show (or visited the bar), I don’t know if it’s an accurate portrayal or not.

Storybrook, Maine from Once Upon a Time
Who are your top three favorite characters native to your region in books, movies, or shows?

The only one I can think of, really, is psychiatrist Frasier Crane from Frasier, which was a spinoff of Cheers. (He’s technically from Seattle, but he lived in Boston for the time frame of Cheers.)

Thank you, Anna, for this very informative post! Come back next week for a post about Dyslexia!

Are you interested in participating in this project? Check out the tips archive to see which countries have been filled and if you're from a different country, shoot me an email at howellvictoriagrace(a)gmail(dot)com. I'm especially looking for Cuba, Venezuela, Switzerland, Kenya, Iraq, and Egypt.

Do you have any characters from New England? Did this inspire you to write a New English character or set a book in New England? Are from this or been to this country and you have further input? Feel free to share! Do you have any questions for Anna? Be sure to thank her!

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