An accessible and personable guide to writing creative nonfiction

Table of contents

Preface by Jay Parini
Section One
First Words
Hand, Writing
Durable Goods
On Thermostats
The Case Against Metaphor: An Apologia
Section Two
A Braided Heart: Shaping the Lyric Essay
“Brenda Miller Has a Cold,” or: How a Lyric Essay Happens
A Case Against Courage in Creative Nonfiction
Writing Inside the Web: Creative Nonfiction in the Age of Connection
The Fine Art of Containment in Creative Nonfiction
The Shared Space Between Reader and Writer: A Case Study
Section Three
In Memoriam
On the Power of Your Word
On Friendship, Assignments, Detail, and Trust
Cables, Chains, and Lariats: Form as Process
The Shape of Emptiness
Collaboration in the Time of Covid-19


A Braided Heart provides a friendly, personal, and smart guide to the writing life. It also offers clear and original instruction on craft elements at the forefront of today’s emerging forms in creative nonfiction: from the short-short, to the braided form, to the hermit crab essay. An acknowledged expert in these forms, Brenda Miller gives writers practical advice on how to sustain and invigorate their writing practice, while also encouraging readers to explore their own writing lives.
“Brenda Miller writes so beautifully in these lyrical and ‘braided’ essays—personal meditations that take us deep into the miracle of writing itself. Her eye is always alert, her ear wonderfully tuned to the nuances of perception. The art of the essay is alive and well in her hands.”
 —Jay Parini, author of Borges and Me

Brenda Miller is Professor of Creative Writing at Western Washington University.

"Brenda Miller’s A Braided Heart is a thoughtful exploration of not only why and how we write, but also why we pursue the artist’s life. What a pleasure to spend time immersed in the intimate workings of such a generous, gentle, and brilliant creative mind. The perfect book for any writer, at every stage.”
—Dinty W. Moore, author of The Mindful Writer

- Dinty W. Moore

“Brenda Miller effortlessly braids her expertise on different forms of creative nonfiction in these thought-provoking essays. She weaves simple incidents beautifully, wanting us to read more; and as we read, we learn. No detail is too trivial, no subject is too insignificant—it is only about how you say it with words!”
—Supriya Bhatnagar, editor of The Writer’s Chronicle and author of …and then there were three

- Supriya Bhatnagar

“Brenda Miller’s collection of essays on writing and form gives us necessary and illuminating glimpses into the writing life and the life of writing. Who better than one of our most insightful and prized writers to guide us along the pathways, whether secret or well-trod, of the lyric essay?”
—Marcia Aldrich, author of Companion to an Untold Story

- Marcia Aldrich

A Braided Heart examines not only how we write but provides a deep lesson into why we write. What draws us to paper and pen, or the keyboard, when we could as well swim or dance or eat raspberries? Brenda Miller shows us that the joy of writing is that once we’ve swum or danced or eaten raspberries, we get to do it again, through words, with all their juicy double-mint and double-meaning. Miller’s collection makes me want to read it all over again, and then go write the rest of the day.”
—Nicole Walker, author of Processed Meats

- Nicole Walker

“In essays that mirror the forms they are examining, A Braided Heart teaches us how to more beautifully, more honestly, more authentically write. Whether through challah, ikebana, or fan letters, Miller takes the outer world we live in and meditates upon those ideas to highlight how we can better understand ourselves and our world of writing.”
—Sean Prentiss, Norwich University

- Sean Prentiss

"Miller soars when she captures such personal, vivid details…solid and practical…aspiring writers will find some sound advice.”
Publishers Weekly

- Publishers Weekly

"In A Braided Heart, Brenda Miller delivers a master class on the composition and appreciation of autobiographical essays. ...It exemplifies as much as it teaches, citing everyone from Mark Doty to Virginia Woolf as it encourages readers to embrace a reflective mindset, drawing connections between life experiences and pinpointing moments of meaning." 
-Shelf Awareness

- Shelf Awareness

"A Braided Heart is a pot of perfectly steeped tea with two cups. The book is a testament to the tensile strength of essay. No matter how the form is bent, so long as the writer remains in conversation, the connection maintains, this friendship through words." 
—Kelly K. Ferguson, Brevity 

- Kelly K. Ferguson

Read: Interview with Brenda Miller in Assay: A Journal of Nonfiction Studies | 11/1/2021
Listen: A conversation between Brenda Miller and Susanne Paola Antonetta on the Skylight Books Podcast Series I 08/10/2021
Read: A Q&A with Brenda Miller featured on Seminary Co-Op | 07/15/2021