Miriam graduated from the Program for Writers at the University of Illinois at Chicago with an MA in Creative Writing where she was awarded an Abraham Lincoln Graduate Fellowship. Her graduate advisors and mentors in the writing of poetry were the late Ralph J. Mills, editor of The Selected Letters of Theodore Roethke,
The Notebooks of David Ignatow; and the late Paul Carroll, founder of the Poetry Center of Chicago, Big Table Magazine, and the Big Table Series of Younger Poets. Mills writes about Herrera's poetry, "I first discovered—and I use that word intentionally—Miriam Herrera's work in the midst of the generally rudimentary kinds of poems one receives in a beginning poetry workshop, a course often taken by students whose knowledge of and ambitions in the realm of poetry are extremely limited. The first poem Miriam turned in for class stunned me with sophistication, directness, and force." Of Herrera's work, Paul Carroll writes, "Miriam proved to be one of the most gifted poets to have studied in our Program. Her Master of Arts thesis—a manuscript of original poems—was one of the finest I have had the privilege to supervise."
Since graduating from the Program for Writers, Miriam has taught at the University of Illinois in Chicago; the University of New Mexico, Los Alamos; South Bay College, in Hawthorne, California; and Russell Sage College in Troy, NY. She has also held positions as Technical Writer/Editor with the Los Alamos Technical Associates, in Los Alamos, NM; and Associate Dean of Faculty at South Bay College, in Hawthorne, California.
Her poetry has been published in Southwestern American Literature, New Millennium Writings, Earth's Daughters, Albatross, ArtLife, Blue Mesa Review, Nimrod: International Journal of Prose and Poetry, and other journals. Her first collection of poetry, Kaddish for Columbus, was a finalist in the New Women's Voices Chapbook competition and was published in 2009 by Finishing Line Press. Miriam is a board member of the Hudson Valley Writers Guild and an active member of the Squaw Valley Community of Writers in Lake Tahoe, CA; the Academy of American Poets, the Poetry Society of America, and the Society for Crypto-Judaic Studies.
Miriam's enigmatic ancestry compels her writing. As evidenced by her family's uniquely hybrid practices and traditions, it is likely they descend from crypto-Jews or "conversos" from the Rio Grande Valley of South Texas. These "conversos" or converts to Catholicism, fled the Spanish Inquisition and came to live in the New World. Descendants of these conversos intermarried with the Native Americans and old Christians that populated the American Southwest.
Miriam explores her crypto-Jewish, Chicana, and Native American identity in her poetry. She writes about the paradoxical nature of identity and the many-layered process one must face to reconcile the splintered parts of one's self. Her personal concept of identity is that it is fluid and changing—that immersion in one culture at a time—and in the very midst of its homeland, is very important to the process. Miriam states, "I feel my topic is worth exploring because I believe cultural fusion is the natural unfoldment of our country's people. My poetic topics are not just about race and culture, but ultimately about the oneness of all and how this unity crosses all boundaries of race, religion, culture, and gender identity."
In her writing classes, Miriam encourages students to develop a flourishing writing process unique to each writer, to tap into their obsessions and write from the deepest parts of their most authentic selves, which must be discovered, uncovered, and nurtured. Miriam often stresses the organic nature of the poem, and how a writer must listen closely for guidance in unearthing what the poem wants to do in form, sound, image, and meaning.