2023 Hudson Prize Winner : Jeremy Griffin


We’re so pleased to announce that we have chosen a winner for the 2023 Hudson Prize. A big, heartfelt congratulations goes to Jeremy Griffin for winning the prize with his short story collection Scream Queen. Congratulations also  to this year’s finalists and semi-finalists. Thanks to everyone who participated in the 2023 Hudson Prize!


Jeremy Griffin grew up in Louisiana and received his MFA in creative writing from Virginia Tech University. He is the author of the short story collections A Last Resort for Desperate People: Stories and a Novella, from SFAU Press; Oceanography, winner of the Orison Books 2018 Fiction Prize; and Scream Queen, winner of the 2023 BLP Hudson Prize. His work has appeared in such journals as the Alaska Quarterly ReviewBellevue Literary ReviewHopkins Review, and Oxford American. He has received support from the South Carolina Arts Commission and the Martha’s Vineyard Institute of Creative Writing. He is an Assistant Professor of English at Simpson College in Iowa.


Excerpt from “Raise Your Fists”


From the windowless dressing room behind the stage, Frank could hear the crowd of mohawked punks chanting his name—”Frank-ie! Frank-ie! Frank-ie!” There was a time when that sound would have made him feel like royalty, but tonight he was content to keep them waiting. The opening band had finished its set over forty-five minutes earlier and his backing band was waiting for him on-stage. The club manager had already been in twice to ask, politely but not without frustration, what the holdup was. But Frank had never let himself be browbeaten by club managers, and he wasn’t about to start now. After nearly forty years of touring and three gold albums, hadn’t he earned the right to take his goddamn time?

They were in Richmond, another divey stop on his farewell tour. It was the kind of place he would have played early in his career, before he went solo, which was how he had pitched the tour to the label, as a throwback to his younger days. Graffiti covered the brick walls, crude caricatures and tagger names and a smattering of anarchy signs. The bar was plastered over with ancient band stickers, the bathroom practically third world. Wearing only a pair of frayed jeans—his customary stage attire—he was on the concrete floor in child’s pose, his knees bent beneath his tawny chest and his arms stretched out before him. It was one of the few yoga poses taught to him by his personal assistant Naomi who, ever since his diagnosis six months prior, had diligently sought out every memory-sustaining measure she could find, including the kale smoothies she insisted he choke down daily, as evidenced by the globby green remnants in the blender on the wet bar across the room. Yoga, she claimed, increased gray matter density. And while Frank wasn’t entirely certain what this meant, and he suspected that she wasn’t either, he couldn’t deny that the stretches loosened him up before a performance. And at sixty-five years old—not quite elderly but still decades older than most of the acts dominating the scene these days—he was finding it increasingly difficult to stay limber.

Having made a career of hard living, Frank had always imagined he would saunter into old age like the guest of honor at a party, elegantly poised and ready to be received. He had never anticipated the indignity of, say, compression socks or stool softeners or, sure, incontinence, all of which flew in the face of the fuck-it-all aesthetic he’d cultivated. Or, much worse, the gradual deterioration of his brain, the memory lapses and the disorientation, as though time had begun to warp around him like liquid. Things that wouldn’t faze a child had started to perplex him—using a calculator, for instance, or counting out change. Names and dates vanished from his mind like embers blinking out of the air. More than once he’d forgotten to finish putting on clothes before leaving the house. Lewy body dementia, the neurologist had called it, small protein deposits in the cerebral cortex. “They’re like little roadblocks,” he’d explained. “They slow down the signals moving between neurons.” 

“How do I get rid of them?” Frank had asked.

“No cure, I’m afraid.” The doc had spoken with the faux solemnity of a boss terminating an employee he barely knew. “But you can slow the process. Probably going to have to make some major lifestyle changes. Diet and exercise, that’s your best course of action.”

For a few moments, Frank had sat quietly, drumming his fingers on the armrests of the padded chair. Despite the severity of the diagnosis, he’d felt a minor wave of relief: now that he knew what he was dealing with, he could concoct a plan. And the first step of that plan was figuring out what he would tell Pete. Or, if he should tell him at all. It had been almost a decade since his son had spoken to him, and Frank had no reason to suspect that his feelings had changed. Then again, every artist understood that opportunities announce themselves in the most peculiar of ways: maybe this was a chance to make amends. Above all, Frank needed to know that he had someone in his corner other than Naomi who, loyal though she may have been, was no caretaker. Not that Pete was either, but they were blood—surely that had to count for something.