Essays inspiring readers to take an innovative approach to writing

Table of contents

Breaking the Silence
The Ram in the Thicket:  Midrash and the Contemporary Creative Writer
DaVinci’s Helicopter, Michelangelo’s Marble: Imagination and Creativity
Inside the Conch Shell
Writing and/as Art:  The Long/Wide View
Radical Surprise:  The Subversive Art of the Uncertain
On Imagistic Endurance
On Enchantment
Time and the Imagination
The Fault Lines of Memory: Embracing Imperfect Memory in Creative Nonfiction
Lost in the Woods of Brooklyn and Belgrade: The Transformative Possibilities of Disorientation
What if I Just Let Go? Risk and the Creative Process in Zong!
Community or Craft? Unpacking the Genre Debate
Radiant Topographies: Borders, Conduits, and Carriers
Writing Without End:  On Suspending the Need for Closure
When Life Interrupts the Writing
Creative Responses to Worlds Unraveling: The Artist in the Twenty-First Century
Why Write a Novel? Why Read a Novel? And Why Now?
Playing Backward on the Train
Works Cited
Author Bios


The Next Draft: Inspiring Craft Talks from the Rainier Writing Workshop brings together a selection of the “morning talks” delivered by the renowned authors who teach at the prestigious Rainier Writing Workshop MFA program. These morning talks are a highlight of the residencies at Pacific Lutheran University in Tacoma, Washington, featuring inspiring, innovative approaches to writing and literature across genres. For this collection, Brenda Miller has selected essays that feature diverse and illustrious writers such as Geffrey Davis, Marjorie Sandor, Barrie Jean Borich, Jenny Johnson, Oliver de la Paz, Lia Purpura, Kent Myers, Rebecca McClanahan, and others. Ranging from reading and writing in the Jewish tradition of midrash to the role of the writer as cultural critic in the 21st century, The Next Draft brings to life the kind of intellectual and creative excitement that underlies the intensive MFA experience at Pacific Lutheran University. Not only do these talks show innovative approaches to writing and literature across genres, they inspire the reader to think about how to read differently and thus bring their own work to a new level. 

Brenda Miller’s most recent book is A Braided Heart: Essays on Writing and Form. She is the author of five more essay collections, including An Earlier Life, which received the Washington State Book Award for Memoir, and she is the recipient of six Pushcart Prizes. She is a Professor of Creative Writing at Western Washington University and Associate Faculty at the Rainier Writing Workshop.

“I am that kind of nerd for whom the best part of any creative writing program, conference, journal, etc., are the craft talks. Brenda Miller takes the model of the collected Warren Wilson craft lectures coedited by Voigt and Orr and applies it to 20 years of the cross- and inter-genre offerings of the Rainier Writing Workshop. Our community (especially creative nonfiction) has hungered for this, and the result is a celebratory feast.”

- Heidi Czerwiec, author of Crafting the Lyric Essay: Strike a Chord and Fluid States

Read: Extract in Lit Hub | March 13, 2024