A native of the Utah desert, I write personal and historical essays and fiction about people struggling with that forbidding landscape. My collection of short fiction, Breeding Leah and other Stories (1991), and a novel, Falling Toward Heaven (2000), were both published by Signature Books. My novel, Avenging Saint, a mystery set in 1887, is forthcoming from Signature. I am submitting for publication another novel about a woman who kidnaps her young daughter. I have published short stories and essays in Southwest Review, Hotel Amerika, Utah Historical Quarterly, English Journal, AWP Chronicle, Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought, Best of the West II, Journal of Mormon History, High Country News, and others. I am completing a collection of essays about my Bennion ancestors, who have ranched and lived in the western desert of Utah for six generations.
I am an associate professor in the English Department at Brigham Young University, where I teach writing fiction and creative non-fiction. I have twenty-five years of experience leading outdoor writing programs that use the writing of personal essays to promote student growth. I have developed Wilderness Writing, a course taught in connection with a Rec Management professor; students backpack and experience the outdoors and then write about what happened. Literature and Landscape is a program where students study the British novel and Shakespeare and then hike through the landscapes where Romantic, Victorian, and other writers lived; in the fall students write essays (spiritual autobiography) about their experiences. Integrated Natural History is an interdisciplinary program for freshmen who get credit in biology, freshman writing, Utah History, and RecManagement while they explore Utah. Insects, Writing, and Art is a program where biology education students and others live in an isolated region (last time at Lytle Ranch in the Mojave Desert) while they collect and study insects with access to an on-site lab; they use writing and drawing to learn about the insects. During the last program we created and published a field guide to insects in the Mojave Desert.
I live in Provo with my wife Karla, a psychotherapist who is also working on a novel. We have five children and four grandchildren.