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. 


We take submissions monthly. If you're interested in contributing to Off Assignment please read our submission guidelines and send pitches to the appropriate editors.

Letter to a Stranger, What I Didn't Say, No Equivalent:

Behind the Feature:

For general questions and pitches please email


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






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Managing Editor

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Creative Strategist




Assistant Editor & Social Media Director


Audio Editor


Ed Cohen, Anne Fadiman, Bob Wertheimer



Sophie Haigney, Candace Rose Rardon



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



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



Jon Lee Anderson, Scott Anderson, Ann Avery, Amir Behbehani, Frish Brandt, KC Branscomb, Steve Brill, Ryan Britt, Nick Calcott, Rebecca Cathcart, Damien Cave, Harriet Clark, Colleen Cotter, Louise Davis, Tom Davis, Richard Deming, Dan DeLuca, Erin Dietrich, Josh Ellison, Ryan Floyd, Don George, Rob Giampetro, David Gimbel, David Goldenberg, Sydney Goldstein, Pamela Goold, Lauren Groff, Darrell & Oliver Hartman, Terry Hawkins, Peter Hazlehurst, Robin Hemley, Courtney Hoddell, Briallen Hopper, Brigid Hughes, Jazmine Hughes, Eli Horowitz, Kinders, Ajay Kulkarni, Ivy LaClair, Louise Langheier, Aaron Lammer, Ariel Levy, Jason Langheier, Jeffrey Lependorf, Jessica Lessin,  Jeff Miller, Scott Miller, Grant Martin, Craig Mod, Kate Morris, Heidi Moseson, Brian O'Connor, Larry O'Connor, Mark Oppenheimer, Michelle Orange, Susan Orlean, Tim Parsa, Eve Peters, Abi Ridgway, Katherine Rushefsky, Michael Segal, Choire Sichre, Sarah Smith, Emily Stokes, Joel Resnicow, Nathan Rostron, Erik Rydholm, Nathan Thornburgh, Sergio Troncoso, Aria Sloss, Sarah Stillman, Fred Strebeigh, Margaret Spillane, Margot Valiante, Henk Van Assen, Mary Vascellaro, Mark Wehling, Abigail Westbrook, Bill Whobrey, Brad Wolfe, Josh Wolff, Jenna Wortham, Michael Yessis, Anna Ziegler



Pico Iyer