Andrew Leon Hudgins, Jr.’s father was a U.S. Navy veteran of World War II who then went on to become an U.S. Air Force officer. Like many military families, Hudgins’s family lived in more than five cities in his childhood, as well as in England and France. The family finally settled down in Montgomery, Alabama, where Hudgins would attend Sidney Lanier High School (named for the Alabama poet, 1842-1881). Hudgins’s interest in Lanier would develop enough that his second book (After the Lost War) would be a collection of poems about Lanier’s Civil War and postwar experiences. Although he lived all over as a boy, Hudgins would consider himself a southern writer and an Alabama native, and indeed, much of his poetry returns to his southern adolescence, chronicled in verse in Saints and Strangers and The Glass Hammer and in prose in The Glass Anvil.
Hudgins graduated from Huntingdon College in Alabama in 1974. He married Olivia Hardy that same year and taught sixth grade for a time. He then earned a master’s degree in English at the University of Alabama; after spending two years working on a doctorate at Syracuse University, he left to work at Auburn University at Montgomery. During this time, he was divorced; he subsequently attended the prestigious Writers’ Workshop at the University of Iowa, where he earned his M.F.A. in 1983. After working briefly at Baylor University, he published Saints and Strangers in 1985. The book was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize and immediately announced Hudgins’s arrival in the literary world. He taught at the University of Cincinnati from 1985 to 2001, where he met and married the novelist Erin McGraw in 1992. In 2001, he joined the faculty at Ohio State University.