By Anne Pinkerton
A.A. Balaskovits is the Grand Prize winner of SFWP’s 2015 Literary Awards Program for her book of stories Magic for Unlucky Girls, a collection that consists largely of re-imaginings of fairy tales, “though one is a retelling of Superman and one the Garden of Eden,” she says. “They’re the kind of fairy tales I wish I had read when I was a child.”
Balaskovits has been working on the stories for nearly nine years, writing new material and culling old, shaping the work and letting the theme of the book evolve. “Ultimately, the collection is about women,” Alison explains, “though you cannot ever write about women without commenting on men as well, so it’s about all of us, and how we make do in systems that are set up to be against us from the get-go, and the small ways we tweak them, even if the tweaking ends up disastrous for us at the end.”
The writer who inspires her most is Angela Carter. “She has this line in The Sadeian Woman: ‘A free woman in an unfree society will be a monster.’” Says Balaskovits, “That’s been at the back of my mind while I was writing this collection, what the monstrous woman would look like, and how that plays out in stories we have read before.”
Balaskovits’ advice to writers: “I’d recommend, as you write, to consider the message that you’re putting out: Is it honest? Does it speak beyond yourself? Does it prop up the messages that are already propped up or does it twist and tinker away at what is readily accepted? The latter are stories that I want to read more of. Please write those.”
Originally from Chicago, A.A. Balaskovits currently resides in South Carolina with her husband. She holds a Bachelor’s degree from Loras College in Dubuque, Iowa, an MFA from Bowling Green State University in Ohio, and a PhD from the University of Missouri.
“I’ve had a lot of odd jobs,” she says, listing positions at literary magazines and nonprofits, teaching gigs, customer service jobs, and editorial work. “I’ve applied to be an assistant cheese maker several times but they never take me.”
Anne Pinkerton is an MFA candidate at Bay Path University in Longmeadow, MA. She holds a BA from Hampshire College and works at Mount Holyoke College directing digital communications for their Alumnae Association. She lives with her husband, two dogs, and four cats. In her limited free time, she volunteers at a local animal welfare organization and plays music.