Get Your Short Fiction Published in WD

In Writer’s Digest magazine, we have only one spot for fiction—the Your Story contest. Readers write pieces in response to an open prompt in every issue, and after magazine staffers narrow down the entries, the members of our online communities vote on their favorites. Ultimately, one winner takes our lone fiction spot. (The most I can offer in the form of an insider glimpse is that the last half dozen contests have witnessed a plethora of leprechauns. We’re not sure whether this is good or bad, but are prone to interrupting hushed reading periods with cries of “Leprechaun!” whenever one surfaces.)

Mythical creatures aside, to enter, shoot your story off to, or post your response (750 words or fewer) in the comments section of Promptly. (There’s only one entry allowed per person, and you have until the Feb. 10 deadline.)

Good luck!

Your Story No. 24
(as featured in the February 2010 issue of WD)

Parents look on in horror as a magician’s trick goes horribly awry during a child’s birthday party.
—From the Writer’s Book of Matches (click here to check out a digital version) by the staff of fresh boiled peanuts: a literary journal

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0 thoughts on “Get Your Short Fiction Published in WD

  1. Cheryl

    Thanks, Martha! I replied to your comment shortly after you posted it, but I guess it didn’t go through. Sorry for that! I really appreciate the praise – I was going for humour, so it’s reassuring to know that’s what I delivered.


    I was wondering when the five finalists from this competition are going to be posted on the forum. I have been checking the forum daily and finally resorted to posting a question in the Ask the Editors section. I have not received a reply, so I thought I’d take a chance and post my question here. Thanks for your time – I love your blog!


  2. Cheryl

    “Come on, it’s not like you never thought about doing it.”

    “Not literally!” Mrs. Stewart shrieked.

    Time to cross ‘magician’ off my resume.

    Sweat poured down my back, making the stiff white shirt cling awkwardly in places I didn’t know shirts could cling. A tiny bead of sweat tickled the upper edge of my brow. Damn the agency and their insistence that all magicians wear black wigs. What was wrong with a platinum mullet anyway?

    In an effort to conceal my increasing stress, I pulled the handkerchief from my sleeve. As I raised it to my head Mrs. Stewart squawked in outrage. “Don’t you dare! If you think some two-bit gag from the ‘twenties is going to make everything alright, you’ve got another thing coming!”

    Her wild gesticulations took in my suit, handkerchief, several props on the nearby table, and Tommy Wilkinson; a pudgy boy who seemed to be handling the entire situation with the serenity of a Buddha. Mind you, his entire life seemed to centre around the pyramid of cream puffs, so it’s possible he missed the entire debacle.

    It was only as I finished wiping my brow that I realized what she’d been going on about. Attached to my white linen handkerchief was a red silk handkerchief. Pulling further, I discovered an orange one, and a blue one, and a yellow one, and a purple one, and a green one…

    “I can fix it.”

    I gestured weakly at the boy on the stool, grimacing as visions of pounding the pavement in search of new employment temporarily blotted out the wailing of nine distraught five year-olds. Why wasn’t this sort of thing covered in the training manual?

    Toby Stewart stared back at me, his silence the most damning proof of my incompetence; particularly in light of his mother’s vocal accusations.

    ‘The Curse of the Mummy’s Tomb’ was a standard pee-wee routine. Take the birthday kid, wrap him up like a mummy, cast a spell, and ‘presto’ the tot is rendered temporarily mute. Dissolve the glue from the ‘Magi’s Mouth Bandage’ with a mild vinegar solution, the ‘Elixir of Life,’ and voila—the brat is free to demand more presents from overly-indulgent mommy and daddy.

    Except, not this time.

    The Elixir of Life didn’t work. Neither did the lemon juice, catsup, red wine, club soda, Gatorade, whipped cream, or shampoo (I was getting desperate, okay?). I glanced futilely around the room, desperately searching for something else to throw at the kid’s face before his mother reached a rolling boil and performed some ‘magic’ of her own—namely calling her lawyer.

    I shook my head in defeat. The agency didn`t pay me enough to deal with this. They probably wouldn`t be paying me after today anyway, but the sentiment was still valid.

    “George!” shrieked Mrs. Stewart as she hauled Toby off the stool . “Get the paediatrician on the phone, now!”

    “Yes, dear.” He disappeared into the kitchen.

    “You!” She whipped an accusing finger at me. “I want you out of my house immediately.” She scoured her son’s face with enough force to make me wince. “If you’re not gone in five minutes I’m calling the police.”

    I grabbed my case and tossed the props inside. What did it matter if the magic newspaper got squashed by the dribbling pitcher? I wasn’t going to be using the stuff again.

    I lugged the purple and black box to the front door, followed by a steady refrain of, “My poor, poor baby! Don’t you worry, I’m sure the doctor will make it all better.” I was about the grasp the knob when Mr. Stewart placed a restraining hand on my shoulder.

    Without saying a word, he tucked a wad of bills in the breast pocket of my suit. I must have looked like a beached cod because he winked and whispered, “In the hopes that it lasts for a few days.” He glanced at the chaos swirling around the living room and back at me. “I just wish you could have done it to her too.”

    Shaking my head at the bizarre family dynamics of the upper-middle class, I tossed my jacket, wig, and magic trunk into the backseat and drove off. I decided there had to be an easier way to pay the bills. Perhaps the highway sanitation department was still hiring.

  3. Martha W

    Okay, this one is not my strong suit. Ugh.

    Mark- Can I borrow the dimension slider? I know a couple kids it would be perfect for… *grin*


    Timmy stared at the magician grinning down at him. "I don’t want to."

    "Get in the box."

    The man’s foul breath fanned his face causing him to gag. "No."

    Timmy could see the way his teeth clenched together and knew he was getting angry. Too bad. He wasn’t climbing in that box for anyone.

    A soft hand rested on Timmy’s shoulder. "Son, it’s your birthday. Whatever you want to do is fine." He could hear the stiff undertone to his mother’s voice but had no idea what it meant.

    Except he didn’t have to get in the box.

    Magic Jack, the magician hired by his crazy aunt, leaned toward Timmy’s mom. "It’s a special birthday surprise. Just for Timmy."

    "Find a way to surprise him without putting him in the box." She pulled her son close. "You are a magician after all, right?"

    Jack straightened and snapped the box closed. "Fine." Turning to the other children he said, "Any volunteers?"

    One particularly obnoxious little girl shot her hand up high. Everyone pretended not to notice, even Jack. When no one else stepped forward and the girl began to bounce in place, he relented as he opened the lid. "Suzy. Hop inside the magic box."

    "Ooo-kay." she sang as she clambered up the side of the ugly black box. The dark interior didn’t seem to bother her at all Timmy noticed with some irritation.

    Jack closed the top and called for everyone’s attention. "As you can all see, there is no way out of this box." He tapped all the sides with his magic wand. "Yet on the count of four Suzy will have disappeared."

    Several of the adults at the party bristled at his words. Timmy’s Aunt Karen shushed them all and told them to wait and see.

    The magician covered the box with a white cloth and waved his hands over the top. "One. Two. Three. Four!" He tapped the lid on the final count and whipped the cloth from the container.

    Everyone held their breath. Timmy was sure they all wanted her to pop out of that box and make him look like a fool. But not him. He wanted her to disappear. She annoyed him to no end. Bugging him every day at school to hold her hand or walk her to class.

    He snorted. If his ring of friends here in the neighborhood found out he hung around a girl, he’d be toast.

    When Magic Jack flipped up the top not a sound could be heard except the soft gasp that said something had gone wrong.

    Suzy’s mom started pushing to the front. "Where’s Suzy? Where’s my Suzy?"

    "Right here, Mama." The girl’s voice rose from the box. She pushed up to a sitting position and turned to the crowd gathered for Timmy’s ninth birthday.

    Timmy’s eyes grew round at the sight before him. He couldn’t even find it in him to laugh. Where before her hair had been a light brown, now it was snow white. And she had ears. Long, long ears that pointed to the sky. Suzy’s mom screamed and fainted dead away.

    Jack backed up from the little girl, muttering, "I must have confused my boxes. How did I get the rabbit box instead of the disappearing box?"

    Immediately Suzy started to freak. She covered her head with her arms and that’s when she discovered her ears had changed. She began sobbing and trying to climb out of the box. Suzy’s dad swooped in to pick her up and cradle her, whispering how he would get the best doctors to help her.

    Timmy’s mother leaned down to Timmy. "Well. How did you like your surprise?"

    "But Mom. No one’s told her about the whiskers yet."

  4. Mark James

    Martha: What’s wrong with this picture? I had to put an I.O.U. in the jar. I owe myself a dollar.

    The rabbit didn’t come out of the hat. The kid didn’t come out of the box. Nothing was coming out of no place.

    I looked at the kid’s Mom and Dad. They were halfway to drunk. Good. I moved my wand from one end of the Dimension Slider to the other. “Come out, come out wherever you are.”

    In the front row, Sandy, the birthday boy’s little sister, piped up. She’d been on me since I got to the party. “That’s not what magicians say,” she said.

    “How about ‘disappear now’? How’s that work for you?”

    The parents, gathered in a tight circle in back, kept drinking, coke mixed with something that made them sway in the hot summer breeze. They didn’t so much as glance at me.

    The little terrorist was on her feet, hands on her hips. “What did you say?”

    The other kids were all eyes, looking from me to her. I got real close to her, leaned down, whispered. “Why don’t you sit down before Mago the Magician gets pissed off?”

    That worked. She sank down on the folding chair, but her cheeks were cherry red. She wasn’t done with me.

    Last thing I needed was the parents noticing the birthday boy was gone. I turned to the box, trying to remember what dimension I shifted him to.

    “Where’s Matthew?” the little boy next to the terrorist-in-training said.

    I was pretty sure he was trapped between dimensions. “Waiting for everyone to think happy thoughts so he can come back.”

    Sure enough, Al-Qaida’s biggest secret popped to her feet. “That’s not how magic works. You have to say the right words. Then people un-disappear.”

    Swear, if she was any bigger, I would of thought my boss from my previous life sent her after me. “Is that right?”

    “Yeah.” She looked at her friends for support. “And if you were a real magician, you’d know that. Where’s my brother?”

    “Try checking under your chair,” I said. “Next to your bomb pack.”

    She looked me up and down. “If I had a bomb I’d – -”

    “Sandy honey, are you playing nice?”

    Great. The parents. “She’s fine Mrs. Ulrich.” I dredged up a smile from somewhere. “Just enjoying the show.”

    Her mother waddled over. “She gets so high strung. Not at all like her brother.” She twisted her trunk of a neck, making dewlaps that could trap sweat for about two centuries. “Where’s Matthew? Where’s our birthday boy? It’s almost time for his cake.”

    I took Sandy by the arm, guided her to the picnic table with the box on top. “His sister volunteered to help bring him back,” I said.

    “I did not.”

    I bent over her again. “You want your brother back?”

    “You better bring him out,” she said.

    “Get in the box.” I opened the lid. “He’s inside.”

    The world’s littlest one man terror campaign kicked my shin. “You think kids are dumb, don’t you?”

    I thought the ones like her grew up to be my ex-wife. “He’s invisible.”

    Mrs. Ulrich was too slow to stop me closing the top. I waved my wand two, three times, didn’t pay attention what dimension I sent her; didn’t matter.

    Magic isn’t science. It’s not like you dial Dimension 411, and it rings on the other end. A whole lot of people don’t know how small the spaces between dimensions can get. No way both those kids would fit. In a couple seconds, Matthew was banging on the box, screaming to get out.

    I beat his mother to the Dimension Slider and opened it.

    “Where’s my cake?” he said. “I bet Sandy ate it all.”

    Mrs. Ulrich grabbed him in a hug tight enough to smother a grizzly bear. “Of course not, sweetheart.”

    No, I thought, Sandy won’t be eating cake for a long, long time.

    Sure. I’ll let her out.

    As soon as she starts thinking happy thoughts.


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