About this project
People! We are so grateful to you for helping us reach our first goal: 25K. Thank you.
In this final week, we are striving to reach a crucial stretch goal of 35K. With 25K, we can keep our existing essay series alive and print our magazine. If we reach 35K, though, we can commission and curate six months of “Behind the Feature” columns: our highest ambition.
We want OA 2.0 to be a platform for highly relevant, truth-telling stories in this era of fake news and weekly political tumult. Hitting this stretch goal may be the most important part of our entire Kickstarter campaign. If you care about deepening journalism today, please help us gun it towards the finish line!
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. Enter Off Assignment: where you find out what really happened on that overnight in Nairobi, that bus ride to Quito. The part that might not be tidy or flattering or even legal, but that that tells a deeper truth, and honors all the ways the world is sure to surprise us, once we surrender to it.
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, a new 501(c)(3) publication, wants to give you those last two-thirds.
But we need your help. Without funding, we can't find and produce the very best OA stories of 2017. Your support enables us to create a weekly web publication and put out a beautiful print volume of the best "off assignment" stories we've gathered to date.
Deep journalism has never been more crucial than it is now in America. "Off Assignment" stories tear down walls; they humanize strangers. Join us in fighting for them.
Here's what we've done so far.
We were a motley crew of storytellers: journalists and travel writers, essayists and photographers. But we shared a common conviction: that we weren't going deep enough. That we needed to challenge the frames of mainstream magazines.
For three years, we hosted live storytelling nights in New York and San Francisco, featuring writers like Gay Talese, Sloane Crosley, Jack Hitt, Phillip Lopate, Leslie Jamison, Lavinia Spalding, Julia Cooke, Andy Isaacson, David Farley, Anna McDonald, and Suketu Mehta.
Something remarkable happened when we rallied writers together: they told stories that smashed all existing boundaries. They showcased just how many rich and border-defying tales are lurking behind the headlines. And so we began to dream of turning these private salons into a far-reaching magazine, unlike anything in existence.
Our aim is to roll out an in-depth "Behind the Feature" story every month, starting in April. We believe that today's reporters face unprecedented challenges and need the space and the impetus to plunge in further. What didn't fit in the front-page article? What was it like to be there, to be them? We're committed to exhuming these stories and giving you a new breed of journalism: raw, candid, digressive and personal.
For a taste of "Behind the Feature", check out the stunning story Ted Conover wrote for OA: an expose about his reporting travails in Guantanamo Bay.
In April, we launched our first online column: "Letter to a Stranger," in which writers pen letters to unforgettable strangers. We're so proud of the letters we've published so far, missives by a wide range of writers like Lauren Groff, Meron Hadero, Matthew Olzmann, Julia Glass, Howard Axelrod, Will Boast, Caroline Lester, Aviya Kushner, and Sheba Karim. Every Thursday, a new "Letter" goes live on our site as well as on SoundCloud.
Moving through the world isn't always romantic, and we think the hiccups and headaches of global travel deserve more play. Enter Triptionary, a travel "dictionary" of whimsical phrases.
We have big dreams for 2017, and the November election has only deepened our resolve to enrich global journalism and support writers in this complex and daunting moment. To pull that off, we need to:
1. Roll out new columns in 2017. Our vision for OA 2.0 is a web publication that plunges you deeper into the current stories that fascinate you most, by getting writers to pause and "go off assignment." In this expanded version of OA 2.0, we'll continue to run our flagship columns like "Letter to a Stranger," while hustling to bring you intimate interviews with the journalists and writers whose work you follow and love.
2. Build our editorial staff. In order to bring these stories to life, we need a dynamo editorial staff. We have budgeted the majority of our funding towards the hiring of one new editor, but every contribution gives us the chance to bring even more talent and passion on board.
3. Pay our contributors. We're thrilled that our mission has spoken to writers, and that many have already volunteered their work. But it's more important than ever to support artists, and we simply can't move forward without compensating our creatives. Funding enables us to reach out to a more diverse set of writers, which is essential and urgent to us.
4. Expand our podcast. You can already listen to our "Letters" on SoundCloud, but we're ready to expand this into a full-length podcast, in which today's writers take us behind the scenes. We can't wait to give literal voice to these untold stories, and your support propels this initiative forward at full speed.
We are crazy grateful for your support and have designed rewards to spoil you, OA-style: rare stories, handwritten confessions, and a soiree, to get you rad people in the same room.
Here's a closer look at some of the rewards you can choose from:
THE DEBUT PRINT VOLUME
Back this campaign at the $30 level and upwards, and we'll send you a gorgeous print volume of our best OA stories. This collection stitches together our nearly two dozen of the very best works Off Assignment has collected over the past three years, including:
- "Into the Grey": Legendary travel writer Pico Iyer reveals the story of the haunting stranger he met in Reykjavik.
- "My Guantanamo, and Theirs": Ted Conover takes us behind the curtain of his Vanity Fair exposé on Guantanamo Bay.
- "Letter to a Stranger: Granada, Nicaragua”: Leslie Jamison writes to a one-legged magician who emblazoned in her memory.
- "First Love": Jon Lee Anderson on his lifelong relationship to Cuba
- "Just Got Wi-Fi": missives by Rolf Potts and Gideon Lewis-Krauss.
- "No Equivalent": poignant essays about what gets lost in translation by Sophie Haigney and Richard Deming.
- "The Supposedly Fun Thing": a hell-trip tale by Alex Sheshunoff
- "Triptionary": a folio of nonsensical travel terms
- "What I Didn't Say": authors Sara Wheeler and Marcia DeSanctis disclose what they omitted from their popular travel books
- Photos by Andrew Rowat, and illustrations by Candace Rose Rardon.
More than a magazine, this volume is an artifact of a grassroots movement. The stories we've collected are too good not to reach your hands, shelves, coffee tables!
Our talented audio editor at NYU's Literary Reportage program has curated our twenty best "Letter to a Stranger" essays into a gorgeous collection, with three added goodies: a poignant foreword by the creators of "Letter to a Stranger"; Pico Iyer's secret Iceland story, read by Pico himself; and our favorite Triptionary words, recited by Tony Perrottet, whose Aussie accent makes everything ear-candy.
AUTHOR'S CUTS, JOURNALIST'S CONFESSIONS, & TRAVEL WRITER'S SECRETS
We've invited some of our favorite writers to go "off assignment" on their own works, leaving little treasures in the margins for you to enjoy. These writers are heroes, having volunteered their time and writing to make Off Assignment come alive.
These annotated volumes, including books by both journalists and fiction writers like Susan Orlean, Lauren Groff, Sam Lipsyte, Edan Lepucki, Michael Cunningham, Amy Bloom, and Anne Fadiman are in limited supply and high demand, so snatch up your faves straightaway!
COLLEEN KINDER (Co-founder) is a travel writer loosely based in too many places. She has written for magazines such as VQR, The New Republic, National Geographic Traveler, and The Atlantic.com. Colleen currently teaches for Yale Summer Session in France and hustles, on the side, to launch this beloved magazine.
VINCE ERRICO (Co-founder) is the Chief Digital Officer at Trusted Media Brands and has more than 30 years experience in digital marketing and strategy. Vince graduated from UC Berkeley and Columbia Business School. A passionate traveler with a knack for digital startups, Vince joined forces with Colleen as soon as he heard about OA.
JULIA CALAGIOVANNI (Managing Editor) graduated from Yale with a BA in English as a Yale Journalism Scholar. She is a former editorial fellow at The Atlantic and also worked at The Sacramento Bee and The American Prospect.
NICOLE CLARK (Creative Strategist) graduated from Yale with a BA in English and co-founded the Yale Entrepreneurship Magazine. She is an associate editor at The Bold Italic and has been featured in Femsplain and Hoodline.
SAM DISALVO (Assistant Editor & Social Media Director) is a writer, journalist and comedian. She graduated from the University of Nevada, Reno with a Creative Writing degree, where she was the head of Insight Magazine. She has served as a news producer and media manager at KRNV and KRON.
OA is indebted to so many supporters and creatives who have dedicated time, talent, and heart to this project. Emphatic thanks goes out to our Founding Board members Ed Cohen, Anne Fadiman, Rick Passov, and Bob Wertheimer; to the inimitable Katy Osborne, who got "Letters" off the ground; to our powerhouse interns Sarah Holder, Sophie Haigney, and Josh Traenen; to Candace Rose Rardon, Meron Hadero, Chris Rubin, Alfred Megally, Jackson Barnett, Willa Brown, Willa Young, Andy Omel, Rob Giampetro, and Andrew Rowat for their counsel, hustle, and creative genius; and finally to Pico Iyer, whose candid story inspired this entire project. Off Assignment is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, and your generous contributions are partially tax-deductible.
Final thanks goes to YOU, dear reader! Thank you for lending your attention to our pipe dream. With your support, we can really make this happen. And if you like what you see, multiply your enthusiasm by sharing this page on Facebook or Twitter! It takes an e-village.
Risks and challenges
Off Assignment is a grassroots, nonprofit organization. We've been around for four years and our leaders are familiar with the challenge of running a satellite team and putting out beautiful content. Our main challenge in the months ahead is producing our debut print volume, and getting it into your hands! We have found a wonderful printing company, The Prolific Group, and just need to find illustrators and designers to nail the visual component. If you happen to be a fantabalous graphic designer or wicked illustrator, do drop us a note. In general, we're always recruiting passionate people to join our team, so be in touch!Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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