Winners of the 2023 AWP Award Series

The Sue William Silverman Prize for Creative Nonfiction

Jay Baron Nicorvo

Winner: Jay Baron Nicorvo
Best Copy Available: A Memoir, University of Georgia Press

Geoff Dyer, Judge: “The (true) story unfolding in Best Copy Available is almost unrelentingly bleak but that relentlessness also makes it difficult to put down. The voice is jagged, dangerous, compelling and, above all, appropriate.”

Jay Baron Nicorvo has published a novel, The Standard Grand (St. Martin's Press), and a poetry collection, Deadbeat (Four Way Books). Jay's nonfiction has twice been named "Notable" in Best American Essays. His writing has been featured on NPR and PBS NewsHour. He's served as an editor at PEN America, the literary magazine of the PEN American Center, and at Ploughshares. He spent years as membership director of the Community of Literary Magazines and Presses in NYC. A proud community college graduate, he’s taught at Eckerd College, Cornell College, Emerson College, and Western Michigan University. He lives with his wife, Thisbe Nissen, their son, a couple of cats, a dog, and a dozen chickens on a defunct farm outside of Battle Creek, Michigan. Find Jay at

The James Alan McPherson Prize for the Novel

Benjamin Grossberg

Winner: Benjamin Grossberg
The Spring Before Obergefell, University of Nebraska Press

Percival Everett, Judge: “The world of this novel is patiently rendered with language that is direct, unadorned, and yet full. The characters here are presented with the kind of affection that is rare in much current literature. This is a love story and a growth story and a story about how the world changes and affects our self-definition, confidence, and place within it. The relationships are not familiar but not cliche, surprising but not sensational. I love the honesty and openness of this novel.”

Benjamin Grossberg is the author of four full-length books of poetry, including My Husband Would (University of Tampa, 2020), winner of the 2021 Connecticut Book Award in poetry and a Foreword INDIES Book of the Year; Space Traveler (University of Tampa, 2014); and Sweet Core Orchard (University of Tampa, 2009), winner of the Tampa Review Prize and a 2009 Lambda Literary Award. He also coedited the anthology The Poetry of Capital (University of Wisconsin Press, 2021), which curates work that addresses the economic challenges of our moment. Ben is a professor and director of creative writing at the University of Hartford.

The Donald Hall Prize for Poetry

Bret Shepard

Winner: Bret Shepard
Absent Here, University of Pittsburgh Press

Heid E. Erdrich, Judge: “Visual, sensual, and clear, this collection maps a distinctly Alaskan space. The relationships, realities, land, sky, creatures, waters—ice—of the Arctic breathe in these poems like characters. There's a tricky math at work: each poem adds or subtracts from what a lone human can know. This is life as some gorgeous zero-sum game. These poems encourage us, even if defined by howling absence, to mark the present and live, simply live, in it.”

Bret Shepard grew up in various parts of Alaska, including the villages of Atqasuk and Browerville on the North Slope. Recent poems have appeared or are forthcoming in the Florida Review, Mississippi Review, Southern Review, and Michigan Quarterly Review, which awarded him the Goldstein Prize. He is the author of Place Where Presence Was, winner of the Moon City Press Book Award, as well as two chapbooks, including The Territorial, which won the Midwest Chapbook Award from the Laurel Review. He currently lives with his family outside of Philadelphia and teaches at Goldey-Beacom College.

The Grace Paley Prize for Short Fiction


Winner: Molly Olguín
The Sea Gives Up the Dead, Red Hen Press

Carmen Maria Machado, Judge: “I could not be more excited by this haunting, lush, genre-leaping collection—reading it, I am reminded of how I felt when I first encountered Karen Russell's St. Lucy's Home for Girls Raised by Wolves. Gorgeously written, imaginative, startling—Sea Gives Up the Dead is a wunderkammer of beauty and sorrow.”

Molly Olguín is a queer writer and educator based in Seattle. Her fiction has appeared in Paranoid Tree, Redivider, The Normal School, River Styx, Quarterly West, and others. She was a recipient of the Loft Mentor Series fellowship in 2019 and was awarded the 2015 AWP Intro Journals Project prize in fiction. With Jackie Hedeman, she is the creator of the queer science fiction audio drama The Pasithea Powder. Also with Jackie Hedeman, she is the author of the screenplay Without Apology, which placed in the top five for the 2020 Write LA Competition, was a finalist for the Diverse Voices 2019 Screenwriting Lab, and a second rounder for the 2018 Austin Film Festival Script Competition. She loves small cats, crows, and monsters of all kinds.


List of Winners

See a list of previous AWP Award Series winners.