In 2018, I became co-editor of Off Assignment. If you know me well, you know this is a dream gig for me, a creative adventure in travel writing—place-based thinking that walks the knife's edge between journalism and literature.
Anyone who has ever shared a drink with a journalist knows that the most surprising, funny, and life-changing parts of a reporting trip rarely make it into the finished article. As New York Times editor Damien Cave put it: “When you turn in a story, you feel like you’re only squeezing a third of the lemon.” Off Assignment invites writers to reflect on the other two thirds—the stories you have been sitting on—stories that don't quite fit anywhere else.
We welcome essays inspired by thoughts you scribbled in your notebook while traveling some place that challenged you (see: Ted Conover's reflections on his visit to Guantanamo as a Vanity Fair reporter in 2014). I encourage writers who are not reporters to submit to the "Letter to a Stranger" series, which is about the memories of chance encounters that still haunt us (see: Melissa Febos' letter to a child she glimpsed one night in a town square in Italy). And our "Behind the Feature" series is a great place for journalists to share the scoop on how their work gets done (see: White House reporter Tara Palmeri's discussion of the twists and turns of this past year).
Off Assignment is already home to essays by Gay Talese, Sloane Crosley, Phillip Lopate, Jack Hitt, Gideon Lewis-Krauss, Leslie Jamison, Lauren Groff and Pico Iyer. Some of these pieces have received mentions from anthologies like Best American Essays, a tradition we hope to continue.
In short: the core vision behind this journal is the idea that “the detour is the story.” If you have a travel essay, or story with a strong sense of place or discovery, I want to hear it!