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Off Assignment: Personal Essay Submissions

Off Assignment, a literary magazine with a penchant for journeys and a fascination with strangers, is currently open to original, unpublished personal essays.


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 travelling 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 judgemental. It is a highly personal narrative that stirs up universal themes. 

Word count: 800-1800. Include a title in the “To___” format (for example, “To the Lady at the Subway Turnstile”).

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 into English? 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

Witching Hour
In this new series, Off Assignment wants to feature lyrical portraits of places at a distinct time of day or night. In contrast to the whirlwind nature of 36-hour travel, they seek work that indulges 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 o’clock 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


Off Assignment considers full drafts only, and pays $300 for “Letter to a Stranger,” “No Equivalent,” and “Under the Influence” essays. Off Assignment pays $100 for “Witching Hour” essays.

See full submission guidelines.