»

Subscribe | Give a Gift Subscription

Log In or Register | Help | Contact Us | Donate

Advanced Search

Main Index » Writing and Publishing » MFA Programs
Question about Annotations?
Edit your profilePrivate messages Search postsWho's online?
You are not signed in. Click here to sign in.
If you are not a member, Register here!
136614 registered users


Moonshade


May 26, 2005, 7:28 PM

Post #1 of 22 (3587 views)
Shortcut
Question about Annotations? Can't Post

I've been reading alot lately about Annotations and how they help strengthen you as a writer/critical reader. Can anyone explain to me clearly and concisely what the Annotating process is? How can I learn to do this? Since I'm still a fledgling writer and am not in school or part of a writing community, I want to design a curriculum for myself to follow.

I do best when I have some kind of structure and right now I don't have one. Does anyone have any ideas about what kind of curriculum I can use on my own to improve my writing?

I didn't get into any Grad. programs this year, but I figure if I can design a solid curriculum for myself I will still reap some of the benefits--by working on my craft in a focused way.

Anyone have any ideas?


elli
Ellen Meeropol

e-mail user

Jun 26, 2004, 9:01 AM

Post #2 of 22 (3795 views)
Shortcut
Anyone out there? [In reply to] Can't Post

I was surprised at how bereft I felt when Speakeasy went down, and I could no longer check in with the various MFA messages. As a going-into second semester low-res MFA student, "talking" with others on this board was really useful. And fun.

Is anyone else still out there, and interested in continuing those conversations?

Elli


Ellen

www.ellenmeeropol.com


j9


Jun 26, 2004, 12:21 PM

Post #3 of 22 (3770 views)
Shortcut
Re: [elli] Anyone out there? [In reply to] Can't Post

I would also be interested...is there a way to start a low-residency MFA thread? I couldn't figure out how to do it...
I just started a low-res program also, so talking about it would be helpful.
Thanks, Jeannine


elli
Ellen Meeropol

e-mail user

Jun 26, 2004, 12:25 PM

Post #4 of 22 (3769 views)
Shortcut
Re: [j9] Anyone out there? [In reply to] Can't Post

I don't know how to start a new thread either, but for now, let's use this one.

What program are you in? what genre? How has it been for you?


Ellen

www.ellenmeeropol.com


j9


Jun 26, 2004, 12:44 PM

Post #5 of 22 (3768 views)
Shortcut
Re: [elli] Low-Residency MFA [In reply to] Can't Post

Great Elli, good idea! At least for now...maybe someone wiser than us can move us to an appropriate thread at some point...
I just got back from my first semester residency at a new program through Mountain Writers and Pacific University in Forest Grove, Oregon. The best part was getting to hang out with fantastic poets like Yusef Komunyakaa, Dorianne Laux, Marvin Bell - and hearing a spontaneous Jazz bassist collaboration at a reading with Sharon Olds! I am just now starting to work on my "annotations" - which I still am sort of unclear about. I got a Master's Degree from University of Cincinnati about seven years ago, but this is going to help me (hopefully) improve my writing and my credentials in case I want to teach.
What about you?


(This post was edited by j9 on Jun 26, 2004, 1:27 PM)


motet
Dana Davis / Moderator
e-mail user

Jun 26, 2004, 12:47 PM

Post #6 of 22 (3771 views)
Shortcut
Low-residency MFA [In reply to] Can't Post


Quote
is there a way to start a low-residency MFA thread?



Yes, Jeannine. Just put Low-residency MFA in the subject box. Then when someone clicks on Reply, it will continue the thread that's in the subject box.

-Dana


motet
Dana Davis / Moderator
e-mail user

Jun 26, 2004, 12:51 PM

Post #7 of 22 (3767 views)
Shortcut
Editing posts [In reply to] Can't Post

You can also edit your posts so if you want to change the thread on a previous post,
just change the subject line. Your post will then indicate that the original content has been changed.


elli
Ellen Meeropol

e-mail user

Jun 26, 2004, 1:17 PM

Post #8 of 22 (3762 views)
Shortcut
Low-residency MFA [In reply to] Can't Post

I'm in Fiction, at the Stonecoast program (U of Southern Maine), also a new program, with the first class graduating next month. I started in January, so start my second semester in July. I had a great semester, worked with Manette Ansay as my faculty mentor, and wrote the first five chapters of my second novel, for my work this semester. I return in July for the second residency.

The concept of the annotations was difficult for me to get, but once I figured out how to best use the assignment for my own learning, I found them incredibly useful and even fun.


Ellen

www.ellenmeeropol.com


j9


Jun 26, 2004, 1:29 PM

Post #9 of 22 (3760 views)
Shortcut
Re: [elli] Low-residency MFA [In reply to] Can't Post

Wow! Sounds like you've been really productive. Any tips for newbies on the whole annotations-deal? I guess I'm just more used to critical work, not sure how to write about something "as it applies to my craft." Thanks in advance!


gmku
Gary Kuhlman


Jun 28, 2004, 1:06 AM

Post #10 of 22 (3728 views)
Shortcut
Re: [j9] Low-residency MFA [In reply to] Can't Post

been on vacation. Hilton Head island. Drank a lot of beer. There's a great brew pub (Hilton Head Brewing Co). I'm drinking (finishing) a beer now--Three Floyds' Robert the Bruce Scottish Ale. Anyone else drinking a beer right now? If so, what is it, and how do you like it, and what does it have to do with your MFA program or with your writing?


gmku
Gary Kuhlman


Jun 28, 2004, 12:59 PM

Post #11 of 22 (3704 views)
Shortcut
Re: [gmku] Low-residency MFA [In reply to] Can't Post

So, what gives? I'm the only lush around here? I find that exceedingly difficult to believe, given the nature of this motley group of writers and other creative creatures of the night.


pongo
Buy this book!

e-mail user

Jul 1, 2004, 9:48 AM

Post #12 of 22 (3674 views)
Shortcut
Re: [j9] Annotations [In reply to] Can't Post

If it helps, you can think of an annotation as an informal critical paper. That's really what it is, after all, with a focus on something -- anything -- that relates to your own writing. That can be craft, or how the writer deals with certain issues, or how the writer uses source material, or word choices, or whatever. Most of my annotations were just that, informal critical essays that would take very little to become formal.

dmh


The Review Mirror, available at www.unsolicitedpress.com

Difficult Listening, Sundays from ten to noon (Central time), at http://www.radiofreenashville.org/.

http://home.comcast.net/~david.m.harris/site/


j9


Jul 2, 2004, 1:12 AM

Post #13 of 22 (3655 views)
Shortcut
Re: [pongo] Annotations [In reply to] Can't Post

Thanks for your annotation tips. So a specific question I have is, how much of it is supposed to be opinion, versus examination - i.e. I observed that blank writer breaks his lines like so, and he tends towards formalist style, etc?
Sorry to still be obsessed (three more annotations to go in the next two weeks, chewing nails restlessly.)
:) Jeannine


elli
Ellen Meeropol

e-mail user

Jul 2, 2004, 8:15 AM

Post #14 of 22 (3650 views)
Shortcut
Re: [j9] Annotations [In reply to] Can't Post

There are a lot of different ways of approaching the annotations. What has been the most helpful to me is sorta a combination of the two ideas you mention: X breaks his lines like so, which has the effect of suggesting Y about his character, or of increasing the pace of the story, or of ... whatever. The purpose of the annotations is to help us analyze the writing of more experienced folks, to increase our own available tools of the craft.


Ellen

www.ellenmeeropol.com


fattery
Victoria M. Chang
e-mail user

May 26, 2005, 8:35 PM

Post #15 of 22 (3580 views)
Shortcut
Re: [Moonshade] Question about Annotations? [In reply to] Can't Post

First of all, sorry you didn't get into any programs :-( Second of all, I think it's great that you are taking it upon yourself to learn more because there's always next year. Annotations are a weird beast. They are essentially craft pieces that look at one work (poem or fiction) and one craft element such as tone, diction, syntax, pacing, etc. for poetry, for example. They really can help one look closely at a piece of writing. Although these are by no means representative of all annotations, I did find this gentleman's website helpful when I was initially trying to determine what annotations were. He actually posts them on his website and they seem pretty true to form:

http://www.dreamsongs.com/Poetry.html


pongo
Buy this book!

e-mail user

May 26, 2005, 9:34 PM

Post #16 of 22 (3577 views)
Shortcut
Re: [fattery] Question about Annotations? [In reply to] Can't Post

My blog is basically annotations, if you want to look at that.

An annotation is a response to a piece of work, You respond to it in terms of craft, or philosophy, or how it fits into your critical concerns, or anything else that engages you about it. But it is a serious response, because you are using the annotation to teach yourself something about the work you have read. Many of mine were formal critical essays; some were just musings on why I couldn't engage with the particular book, or why I was offended by it. There really is no set form.

dmh


The Review Mirror, available at www.unsolicitedpress.com

Difficult Listening, Sundays from ten to noon (Central time), at http://www.radiofreenashville.org/.

http://home.comcast.net/~david.m.harris/site/


Moonshade


May 26, 2005, 11:15 PM

Post #17 of 22 (3567 views)
Shortcut
Re: [pongo] Question about Annotations? [In reply to] Can't Post

Fattery and Pongo, thank you so much for the links and the descriptions. While I am still a bit puzzled, from looking at those websites I have a hazy idea of what Annotations are. I'm going to continue to analyze them until I get a clear(er) grasp.

They do indeed seem to be a weird beast, but I can understand why they are helpful. Repeatedly breaking down other writers works will help discover/strengthen my Writer's voice. In fact, I think when I pick up novels and short stories from now on, I will read with a pen or highlighter in hand.

And Fattery you're correct, there is alway next year. That's why I decided to design a curriculum for myself--to get myself up to par. When I apply for next year, I intend for my writing to have progressed.


rtperson
Roger Turnau

May 27, 2005, 11:56 AM

Post #18 of 22 (3548 views)
Shortcut
Re: [Moonshade] Question about Annotations? [In reply to] Can't Post

Here's an exercise that may help you get your head around annotations. Once you've decided what element of craft you're going to focus on in the work you're studying, try writing a short piece of your own that tries to do the same thing as the work you're studying. Invariably your own piece will fall short, but not always, and your own shortcomings will almost always be instructive, especially because you'll have a piece to compare them against.

By short, I mean 2-3 pages. Any longer than that and it becomes hard to keep the exercise focused.

Good luck! I admire your determination.


(This post was edited by rtperson on May 27, 2005, 11:58 AM)


Moonshade


May 27, 2005, 12:13 PM

Post #19 of 22 (3542 views)
Shortcut
Re: [rtperson] Question about Annotations? [In reply to] Can't Post


....try writing a short piece of your own that tries to do the same thing as the work you're studying.



Do you mean I should paraphrase what the other writer has written? By picking 2-3 pages of the other writer's work and then rewrite it in my own voice and style?(and making sure that the other writer's points remain clear in my piece.)


willbell
Will

May 27, 2005, 12:31 PM

Post #20 of 22 (3539 views)
Shortcut
Re: [Moonshade] Question about Annotations? [In reply to] Can't Post

Moonshade--

What I've done over the last two months--at first to get my mind off the admissions process and then to work out a better routine--is map out my goals and formulate a practical plan to achieve them. I've re-organized my time so that I can write without interruption and read without distraction. I've learned to function on 5-6 hours sleep.

I write for 2.5 - 3 hours in the early morning and then go to my day job.
At night, I read for 2 hours. I write my responses to the reading in a journal--annotation-esque entries--before I go to sleep. Approx. every 3 weeks, I gather my writing into a package and pass it on to a few friends for their reactions/suggestions. (This last step hasn't been too effective...although I've only done it twice so far.)

Also, I go to a lot more readings than I used to and keep my eyes open for weekend workshops that might be helpful.

Every routine is different and you must find what works for you.

Good Luck.


rtperson
Roger Turnau

May 27, 2005, 2:47 PM

Post #21 of 22 (3532 views)
Shortcut
Re: [Moonshade] Question about Annotations? [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To
Do you mean I should paraphrase what the other writer has written? By picking 2-3 pages of the other writer's work and then rewrite it in my own voice and style?(and making sure that the other writer's points remain clear in my piece.)


What I'm suggesting is not just paraphrasing, but you're on the right track. Take 2-3 pages of another writer's work and identify what that writer is doing technically that most interests you. That would be where most annotations stop, and that in and of itself is a really good exercise. But you can take it a step further if you try to replicate the techniques yourself. Often you'll find that the techniques themselves go hand in hand with the voice and the style, so if you need to ape those a little that's fine. The real goal of the exercise is not to generate original work so much as it is gain a greater understanding of a writer's choices by a bit of constructive imitation.

There are some excellent examples of writers doing this. Take the Prologue of Ralph Ellison's Invisible Man. He's doing a brilliant mimicry of Dostoevski's Notes from the Underground in a way that's completely relevant to his story. Of course, my suggestion is meant only as an exercise, so don't expect a work of genius to emerge. But Ellison's the most accessible example of this sort of thing I can think of.

Or take the first sentence of Faulkner's "A Rose for Emily":
WHEN Miss Emily Grierson died, our whole town went to her funeral: the men through a sort of respectful affection for a fallen monument, the women mostly out of curiosity to see the inside of her house, which no one save an old man-servant--a combined gardener and cook--had seen in at least ten years.
You could do an exercise on that sentence alone. There's just so much there. There's the narrator himself: third-person but not distant third-person. He refers to "our town," so he's more of a "guy down the block" third person, which makes him (and by extension us) personally invested in what happens. There's the wonderfully rich depiction of Emily -- she's wealthy, honored, feared, distant and alienated. You know who she is before you even meet her. And you have drama: what happened ten years ago? Add to that the tone of the gracious raconteur on his porch swing ruminating over a pipe, and you have the start of an almost impossibly captivating tale. Every single effect in that sentence is deliberate. Internalize some of Faulkner's choices and you will have availed yourself of some of his talent.

So what could your exercise be? Well, start with the situation. Something happens in a society that galvanizes an entire group reaction to it. The narrator is close enough to the situation to be a concerned onlooker, but not so close as to be implicated in the story that emerges. You know you need a magnetic personality in the middle, a character you can introduce through the group, and the tone needs to be warm and friendly so you can get beyond a truly dark mood.

You could write an essay on "brilliant ways to introduce a character," but I think it cements the lesson that much more if you try the techniques on for size in your own work.


(This post was edited by rtperson on May 27, 2005, 2:54 PM)


rwt
Robert Thomas
e-mail user

May 30, 2005, 6:53 PM

Post #22 of 22 (3505 views)
Shortcut
Re: [rtperson] Question about Annotations? [In reply to] Can't Post

I think of annotations as something like listening to music. When I listen to a rock song, I listen mainly to the singer and lead guitar. I don't really "hear" the drums, for example. When I listen to a symphony, maybe I habitually listen to the horns but not really the strings (if I'm a horn person), or vice versa if I'm a violin man.

When reading poetry and fiction, I think we tune into the elements we like most. I pay a lot of attention to imagery and metaphor because I love them, but I don't pay so much attention to, say, rhythm and plot. Annotations are an excuse to slow down and listen to things you don't usually hear. Maybe you love Beethoven's Fifth Symphony, but have you ever really listened to the amazing cello part? (Neither have I--I just made up that example.)

Maybe you love the imagery of "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock" but have never paid much attention to the tone of voice, so you might write an annotation on the poem's "tone" (sarcastic? sad? Ingmar Bergman or Woody Allen?) just to give yourself an excuse to listen to an aspect of the poem you've never paid much attention to before.

Main Index » Writing and Publishing » MFA Programs

 


P&W Newsletters

Sign up to receive our monthly email newsletter to stay informed of the latest news, events and more.

Click to Sign Up

Subscribe to P&W Magazine | Donate Now | Advertise | Sign up for E-Newsletter | About Us | Contact Us

© Copyright Poets & Writers 2011. All Rights Reserved