Announcing the 2020 Fort Lyon Writer-in-Residence

Join us in welcoming Michael Bennett as the 2020 Fort Lyon Writer-in-Residence! While Michael is currently wrapping up his time at Fort Lyon, we checked in with him early in his stay for a quick Q&A. 

What initially drew you to the Fort Lyon Fellowship?

I heard about the fellowship through my mentor and friend Sarah Shotland, who was one of the writers in residence at Fort Lyon last year. I was especially drawn to the teaching and community aspects of the fellowship. I believe that teaching creative writing can be an incredible way to engage and build community, especially among those who suffer from trauma. I was not interested in simply having quiet space and time to write. My writing is better when I can also teach and interact with others, especially those with stories different from my own experiences. I hope that my time here will give me some insight on how to expand creative writing programming for the homeless population in Pittsburgh.

Which aspect of your own background are you excited to bring to Fort Lyon’s teaching environment? 

I spent the last year focusing on a theatre project with incarcerated juveniles and studying some tools of theater of the oppressed. I'm interested in using some of those tools and lessons to explore memory and storytelling. I'm excited at the prospect of introducing some of these tools to the Fort Lyon community. I believe my background in nonfiction will help engage residents who are interested in exploring their past through creative expression. 

Can you share what you’ll be working on during your stay, and have your plans changed due to recent events? 

I'll be working on a series of flash essays about race, more specifically interrogating whiteness and white gaze in my own life experiences. I will also be editing poems from my poetry manuscript, which documents queer spaces and histories in Pittsburgh, PA.

Have you ever spent time in southeastern Colorado? How do you imagine the environment shaping your experiences? 

I have never spent any time in southeastern Colorado. I'm used to the humid, rainy, urban hills of Pittsburgh, so I'm hoping the dry air, constant sun, and flat land will be a refreshing change of pace. I'm excited to see the stars and night sky more clearly away from the light pollution of the inner city. I also think that some distance from Pittsburgh, which is the setting for most of my writing, will give me a fresh perspective to depict the city in my work.


Michael Bennett (he/him) is a writer and educator born and raised in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, the city and subject he may never escape. Michael holds an MFA in creative nonfiction from Chatham University. He teaches young writers at Pittsburgh's Creative and Performing Arts High School and juveniles incarcerated at the Allegheny County Jail. His work has appeared at Homology Lit, Coal Hill Review, The Gay & Lesbian Review Worldwide, and elsewhere.