the detour is the story


Three years ago, we asked our favorite writers a question: What's your best untold story?

Anyone who has ever shared a drink with a journalist knows the truth: the most surprising, funny and life-changing part of the trip rarely makes it into the narrow confines of an 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 wants to give you those last two-thirds. 


If you're interested in contributing to Off Assignment please view our submission guidelines.


In the summer of 1987, Pico Iyer traveled to Iceland on a reporting trip for TIME. Once home, he filed a story—“just the kind of 900 words [the editors] had expected,” he’d later write. But the tale that haunted Pico was different. There was a stranger—a compelling Icelandic woman with whom he'd wandered Reykjavik.

Pico never wrote the tale of this woman; rather, he told it on a whim in the spring of 2013 to a writing class at Yale taught by Off Assignment co-founder Colleen Kinder. When he did, he left a question in the air: how many writers are simply sitting on their best stories?

Scores of A-list creatives have since gone "off assignment": Gay Talese, Sloane Crosley, Phillip Lopate, Jack Hitt, Gideon Lewis-Krauss, Suketu Mehta, Ted Conover, Leslie Jamison, Marcia DeSanctis, Rolf Potts, Mary Morris, Jon Lee Anderson, Sara Wheeler, Anna Ziegler, Lauren Groff, David Farley, and Pico Iyer—who put his Reykjavik tale to the page for our first print issue.

"Too often people work for magazines or newspapers...on deadline. If it takes 30 years, let it take 30 years. Stories never die. People die...but some stories don't."

The New York Observer, Gay Talese at Off Assignment's March 2014 "Unpitchable" Event




Colleen Kinder, Edwin Cohen, Robert Wertheimer,

Rick Passov, Anne Fadiman



Katie Aldrich, Kathryn Besemer, Arianne Cohen, Colleen Cotter,  Andrea Dupree, Anne Keene, Louise Langheier, Alfred Megally, Craig Mod, Andy Omel, Katy Osborn, Dan Rosenbaum, Christopher Rubin, Lavinia Spalding, Fred Strebeigh



Julia Cooke, Marcia DeSanctis, Gregory Dicum, Elisabeth Eaves, Kristina Ensminger, David Farley, Simone Gorrindo, Andy Isaacson, Leslie Jamison, Alfred Megally, Sarah Menkedick, Mary Morris, Rolf Potts, Tony Perrottet, Alex Sheshunoff, Lavinia Spalding, Andrew Rowat



Jackson Barnett, Willa Brown, Sarah Holder, Niyi Omiwale, Austin Rhyne, Chris Rubin, Raeden Richardson, Michelle Rushefsky, Sam Benson Smith, Joshua Tranen, Zoe Tucker, Aidan Walsh, Jefferson Wooley, Willa Young



Faith Adiele, Howie Axelrod, Charlotte Carlson, Ted Conover, Julia Cooke, Sloane Crosley, David Farley, Julia Glass, Matt Gross, Jack Hitt, Carlynn Houghton, Andy Isaacson, Leslie Jamison, Colleen Kinder, Gideon Lewis-Krauss, Phillip Lopate, Anna McDonald, Suketu Mehta, Mary Morris, Tony Perrottet, Lavinia Spalding, Gay Talese



Kate Essig



Julia Calagiovanni, Sam DiSalvo, Nicole Clark, Kate Essig



Katie Aldrich, Natalie Bird, Blake Brandes, Rebecca Cathcart, Dan DeLuca, Erik DeLuca, Susan Easton, Echo Eggebrecht, Victoria Elliott, Dylan Entelis, Lynn Feng, Jaime Green, Mary Holderness, Sarah Hutter, Sarah Jampel, Anne Keane, Chuck Klosterman, Jeremy Kutner, Robyn Lange, David Lyerly, Kate Nelson, Zahra Noorbakhsh, Andy Omel, Jacob Osbourne, Paul Hastings LLP, Elaina Plott, Lee Satkowski, Elana Schlenker, Jason Toups, Margot Valiante, Amy Wang, Maggie Yellen



Roger Austin, Sarah Auton, Ann Avery, Caroline Barnett, George Bekes, Kathryn Besemer, Tim Best, Brigid Boland, Amy Bloom, Sam Brown, Willa and Nick Brown, Jotham Burrello, Seth Burstein, Merrik Bush, Alicia & Richard Calagiovanni, Vanessa Carendi, Margot Case, Ed Cohen, Katie Cole, Abby Crumpacker Vieira, Michael Cunningham, Tom Davis, David Degusta, Erik Deluca, Marcia DeSanctis, Ellen DeSanctis, David & Susan DiSalvo, Graham Duncan Timothy Ernst, Heather & Len Essig, Christine Evans, Conor Flynn, Michael Gallagher, Don George, David Goldenberg, Pamela Goold, Kathryn & Bob Gronke, Matt Gross, Ben Grover, Cathy Gumpert, Paul Haigney, Sophie Haigney, Liz Hanpeter, Ryan Harris, John Herron, Steffan Heuer, Charlotte Hill, Jennifer Huntington, Briallen Hopper, Brigid Hughes, Emily Hurstak, Jeannie Im, Katherine Jamieson, Lauren Keane, Anne Keene, Bruce Kelley, EB Kelly, Crystal Kelly, Drew & Mary Therese Kinder, Katie Kinder, Molly Kinder, Chuck Klosterman, Laura Koda, Ajay Kulkarni, Louise Langheier, Fritz Lanman, Wesley Lepatner, Kimberley Lovato, Alexander Lumans, Grant Martin, Alexandra Marks, Deborah Berke and Peter McCann, Tess McCann, Joanne McDonald, Erin McKee, Scott Miller, Jeff Miller, Craig Mod, Monica Monrroy, Jina Moore, Doug Moore, Mary Morris, Dane Moseson, Heidi Moseson, Owen Murray, Missy Narula, Sunny Nishimoto, David Norris & Greg Rills, Kate O'Brien, Brian O’Connor, Virginia Older, Mark Oppenheimer, Susan Orlean, Stella Pena-Sy, Wendy Stein, Steven Petrow, Jennifer Pless, Vidhya Prabhakaran, Joel Resnikow, Ben Reiter, Joel Resnicow, Nathaniel Rich, Ju-Don Roberts, Dan Rosenbaum, Jane Ross, Chris Rovzar, Chris Rubin, Michelle Rushefsky, David Russell, Erik Rydholm, Jason Sanchez, Marjorie Seawell, Michael Segal, Edward Shaw, Alex Sheshunoff, Aria Sloss, Sarah Smith, Megan Smith, Lavinia Spalding, Stacey Steers, Erin Sullivan, Matt Sweeney, Linda Takahashi, Caroline Trefler, Leslie Trew Magraw, Christine Tripp, Mayra Urbano, Hugo van Tilborg, Zoe Tucker, Jacques van Zyl, Mary Vascellaro, Stuart Waldman, Josh Weil, Mark Wehling, Albert Wenger, Bob Wertheimer, Fred Wilson, Brad Wolfe, Jasmine Wong, Maggie Yellen, Willa Young, Anna Ziegler



Abby Crumpacker Vieira & Bob Vieira, Ajay Kulkarni, Albert Wenger, Alex Sheshunoff, Alexander Lumans, Alexandra Marks, Alicia Calagiovanni, Anna Ziegler, Aria Sloss, Ben Grover, Ben Reiter, Briallen Hopper, Brigid Boland, Caroline Trefler, Cary Barnett, Charlotte Hill, Christine Evans, Christine Tripp, Christopher Rubin, Conor Flynn, Craig Mod, Crystal Kelly, Dane Moseson, David DeGusta, David DiSalvo, David Norris & Greg Rills, David Russell, Dwayne Newton, EB Kelly, Edward Shaw, Erik Rydholm, Erin Sullivan, Fritz Lanman, George Bekes, Heather & Len Essig, Hugo van Tilborg, Jasmine and Eric Tung, Jason Sanchez, Jennifer Pless, Jina Moore, Joel Resnicow, John Herron, Ju-Don Marshall, Katherine Jamieson, Kathryn and Bob Gronke, Kathryn Besemer, Katie Cole, Katie Kinder, Katie O’Brien, Kimberley Lovato, Lavinia Spalding, Linda Takahashi, Lucas Tromly, Margot Case, Matt Gross, Matt Sweeney, Mayra Urbano, Michael Gallagher, Molly Kinder, Monica Monrroy, Owen Murray, Sarah Senk-Auton, Sarah Smith, Seth Burstein, Stacey Steers, Steffan Heuer, Stephanie Carendi and Henning Christiansen, Sunny Nishimoto, Tess McCann, Tim Ernst, Timothy Best, Vidhya Prabhakaran, Vince Errico, Virginia McAnulty, Yumi Nam



Pico Iyer