Off Assigenment

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Off Assignment is a literary magazine with a penchant for journeys and a fascination with strangers. We’re looking for writers who travel, poets who wander, essayists with a sense of place, reporters with swollen notebooks, and gourmands with street cart taste. We’re not here to guide vacations. We don’t cover spas or centennials. We have a taste for offbeat places. We care about voice and story. We want the writer on the page—sweating, tripping, and telling a tale.


We accept simultaneous submissions, as long as you immediately notify us that your piece has been accepted elsewhere. We are interested only in original essays; your work must not have been published elsewhere prior to submitting.


"Letter to a Stranger"

Who haunts you?

We all harbor thoughts about the strangers at the edges of our lives. Write a letter to an unshakeable stranger you’ve met along the way, whether traveling across the world, the country, or down the street. 

A great “Letter to a Stranger” has some magic to it, and often speaks to more than just what it's directly about. It's never colonialist or judgmental. It is a highly personal narrative that stirs up universal themes. 

Include a title in the “To___” format (for example, “To the Lady at the Subway Turnstile”).

Word count: 800–1800.


To the Traveling Magician by Leslie Jamison

To the Protagonist of a Too Short Story by Carlynn Houghton 

To the Pharmacist on Futong West Street by Monet P. Thomas

To the Man I Believe Was Good by Lauren Groff

"No Equivalent"

Teju Cole writes: “The English word translation...descends from the Latin translatus: trans, across or over, and latus, which is the past participle of ferre, to carry, related to the English word ‘ferry.’ The translator, then, is the ferry operator, carrying meaning from words on that shore to words on this shore.”

What is one word you have come across that resists being ferried over in translation? Write about one of these untranslatable words, and the role it has played in your personal geography or voyages. 

Word count: 800–1800.


Pajogan by Amber Meadow Adams 

Caccata by Jeanna Lucci Canapari 

Crusher Run by John Kaufmann

Chuches by Olaya Barr 

"Under the Influence"

The art we surround ourselves with affects our reality. What happens when we use authors or artists as guides to our travels, near and far? Which artist’s presence accompanies you down a street or rests with you on a park bench? Tell us about the interplay between art and reality, and how the lens of each showed you something interesting about the other. Title your submission along the lines of “Reading [author] in [place]”/ “Listening to [artist] in [place],” etc.

Word Count: 800–2000.


Northern Winds: Reading Tayeb Salih in Sudan by Nanjala Nyabola

How Not to Leave the Arctic Circle by Alexander Lumans

In Search of Smoky Cafes by Lilly Dancyger

Sunflower Children: Listening to Post Malone in Alaska by Meghan Gunn

"What I Didn’t Say"

Any writer knows that, often, the most interesting part of the assignment doesn’t make it into the story. Revisit the experiences that have stuck with you, the happenings that didn’t bend into the margins of the assignment, but that persist in your memory. This isn’t a behind-the-scenes travel diary—this is the story behind the story. Note: We are currently not accepting submissions for this column.

Word Count: 1500–2000. 


Into the Gray by Pico Iyer

All Along the Waterfront by Oluwatosin Adeshokan 

My Guantánamo, and Theirs by Ted Conover

Goodbye Dominican Republic, Goodbye Baseball by Jorge Arangure

"Witching Hour"

In this new series, we want to feature lyrical portraits of places at a distinct time of day or night. In contrast to the whirlwind nature of 36-hour travel, we want to indulge in a scene locked in the grasp of one specific time and place. Jean Valentine writes about 3 am in New York and Georges Perec writes about 10:30 in Paris. What’s the portrait of a time and place that bewitches you? To get started, use this sentence construction: “X a.m./p.m. in Y place is ____,” and write from there.

Word count: 300–500.


10 p.m. in Muriwai by Hallie Pritts

7 p.m. in Amsterdam-Oost by Lalini Shanela Ranaraja

2:40 p.m. in Ann Arbor by Divya Manikandan

1:11 p.m. in Hippie Hollow by Greg Marshall


We consider full drafts only, and pay $300 for “Letter to a Stranger,” “No Equivalent,” and “Under the Influence” essays. We pay $100 for “Witching Hour” essays.



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