MFA in Creative Writing

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The Master of Fine Arts Program in Creative Writing at The Ohio State University is designed to help graduate students develop to the fullest their talents and abilities as writers of poetry, fiction and creative nonfiction. Creative writing classes are conducted as workshops or tutorials, and there are numerous opportunities for related study both within and beyond the Department of English.  All students are fully funded for three years in a program that is well known for its sense of community and a faculty that is as committed to teaching as to their own writing.

Approximately 36 graduate students are taught by tenure track, visiting, and affiliated (Film Studies) faculty, who also teach in the undergraduate program. Graduate student TAs teach introductory and intermediate special topics undergraduate creative writing courses, undergraduate literary publishing, as well as first-year and second-year writing (required courses for all Ohio State undergraduates). TAs teach two classes a year, one in autumn and one in spring. In addition, they have the opportunity to work as editors of Ohio State's prize-winning, nationally distributed literary magazine, The Journal, and to serve on the editorial staff of our two annual book prizes, one in poetry and one in prose.

Course offerings are varied and numerous. Special topics graduate workshops (in the long poem, in characterization, in literary translation, in humor writing, and so on) ensure that, in addition to "regular" workshops, opportunities abound for experimentation. Our graduate program includes coursework designed for "crossing over," such as, poetry workshops for MFA fiction writers or essayists with little experience writing poems; and "forms" classes in prosody, the novel, the memoir, novellas, for example. 

Screenwriting for MFAs is offered regularly, and many students also elect to study playwriting or writing for performance as an elective. Some MFAs choose to pursue the Graduate Interdisciplinary Specialization in the Fine Arts (GISFA), which allows them to take graduate courses in other arts disciplines. Indeed, Ohio State's size and breadth offer our students the chance to explore many disciplines that enrich their study and practice of creative writing.

Advanced

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ABOUT THE PROGRAM

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Core faculty

Photograph of Kathy Fagan Grandinetti

Kathy Fagan Grandinetti is the director of the Creative Writing Program and author of five books of poems: Sycamore (Milkweed Editions, 2017); The Raft, a National Poetry Series Award Winner; MOVING & ST RAGE, winner of the 1998 Vassar Miller Prize for Poetry; The Charm (2002); and LIP (2009). Her poems have been widely anthologized and her work has appeared in such publications as PoetryThe Paris ReviewFIELDThe Kenyon ReviewSlatePloughsharesThe New Republic and Blackbird. She is the recipient of fellowships from the NEA, the Ingram Merrill Foundation, The Frost Place and the Ohio Arts Council. Director of the Creative Writing Program, she continues to serve as advisor to The Journal, for which she and Michelle Herman were awarded the 2004 Ohioana Award for Editorial Excellence. Fagan is also series editor for The OSU Press/The Journal Wheeler Poetry Prize. Please visit Kathy Fagan's website.
Email: fagan.3@osu.edu

Photograph of Michelle Herman

Michelle Herman is the author of the novels MissingDog, and Devotion; the collection of novellas A New and Glorious Life; the essay collections The Middle of EverythingStories We Tell Ourselves, and Like A Song; and a book for children: A Girl's Guide to Life. Essays and short fiction have appeared in Conjunctions; American Scholar; O, the Oprah Magazine; The Southern Review; Creative Nonfiction; Redbook; Story Quarterly and many other journals. Her awards and honors include a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship, a James Michener Fellowship, numerous individual artist’s fellowships from the Ohio Arts Council and the Greater Columbus Arts Council, and two major teaching awards — the University Distinguished Teaching Award and the Rodica Botoman Award for Distinguished Undergraduate Teaching and Mentoring — both from Ohio State, where she has taught since 1988. Please visit Michelle Herman's website.
Email: herman.2@osu.edu

Photograph of Marcus Jackson

Marcus Jackson earned a BA from the University of Toledo and continued his poetry studies at NYU and as a Cave Canem fellow. His poems have appeared in such publications as The American Poetry ReviewThe New Yorker and Tin House. His first collection of poetry, Neighborhood Register, was released in 2011, and his second collection, Pardon My Heart (Northwestern University Press/TriQuarterly Books)came out in 2019. Please visit Marcus Jackson's website.
Email: jackson.2577@osu.edu


 

 

 

Photograph of Lee Martin

Lee Martin is the author of the novels The Bright Forever (a finalist for the 2006 Pulitzer Prize in Fiction); River of HeavenQuakertownBreak the Skin; and Late One Night. He has also published three memoirs: From Our HouseTurning Bones and Such a Life. His first book was the short story collection, The Least You Need To Know, and a new collection, The Mutual UFO Network, was published in 2018. His craft book, Telling Stories: The Craft of Narrative and the Writing Life, came out in 2017. He is the co-editor of Passing the Word: Writers on Their Mentors. His fiction and nonfiction have appeared in such places as Harper's, Ms., Creative Nonfiction, The Georgia Review, The Kenyon Review, Fourth Genre, River Teeth, The Southern Review, Prairie Schooner, Glimmer Train, The Best American Mystery Stories and The Best American Essays. He is the winner of the Mary McCarthy Prize in Short Fiction and fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Ohio Arts Council. He was the winner of the 2006 Alumni Award for Distinguished Teaching from Ohio State, where he is a College of Arts and Sciences Distinguished Professor of English. Please visit Lee Martin's website.
Email: martin.1199@osu.edu

Photograph of Elissa Washuta

Elissa Washuta is a member of the Cowlitz Indian Tribe and a writer of personal essays and memoir. She is the author of two books, Starvation Mode and My Body Is a Book of Rules, named a finalist for the Washington State Book Award. With Theresa Warburton, she is co-editor of the anthology Exquisite Vessel: Shapes of Native Nonfiction, forthcoming from University of Washington Press. Her work has appeared in SalonThe Chronicle of Higher EducationBuzzFeed and elsewhere. She has received fellowships and awards from the National Endowment for the Arts, Artist Trust, 4Culture, Potlatch Fund and Hugo House. Please visit Elissa Washuta's website.
Email: washuta.2@osu.edu

Nick White is the author of the story collection Sweet and Low and the novel How to Survive a Summer. His fiction and essays have appeared in The Kenyon Review, The Literary Review, Indiana Review, Guernica and elsewhere. A native of Mississippi, he earned a PhD in English and creative writing from The University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Please visit Nick White's website.
Email: white.1615@osu.edu


Affiliated faculty

Photograph of Angus Fletcher

Angus Fletcher is the Black List and Nicholl award-winning screenwriter of MIDDLE EARTH (produced by Bob Shaye and Michael Lynne, directed by Michel Apted), WEE FREE MEN (produced by Allison Thomas and Gary Ross, based on the novel by Terry Pratchett), and VARIABLE MAN (produced by Isa Dick and Electric Shepherd, based on the novella by Philip K. Dick). He earned his PhD from Yale and has published articles on dramatic ethics and practice in Critical Inquiry, New Literary History, The Journal of the History of Philosophy, and a dozen other academic journals. His book Evolving Hamlet appeared on Palgrave in 2011, and his research and writing has been supported by grants from the National Endowment for the Humanties, the National Science Foundation, and the Mellon Foundation. Prior to coming to Ohio State, he taught at USC, Stanford, and Teach for America.
Email: fletcher.300@osu.edu

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Visiting Writer Liza Wieland
Friday, September 13 at 4 p.m. in Denney Hall 311

Liza Wieland is the author of eight works of fiction and a volume of poems. She has received fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Christopher Isherwood Foundation and the North Carolina Arts Council. She is the 2017 winner of the Robert Penn Warren Prize from the Fellowship of Southern Writers. Her novel, A Watch of Nightingales, won the 2008 Michigan Literary Fiction Award and her previous novel, Land of Enchantment, was a longlist finalist for the 2016 Chautauqua Prize. She lives in Oriental, North Carolina, and she teaches at East Carolina University.
 

Native Craft Reading Series presents Billy-Ray Belcourt
Friday, September 13 at 4 p.m. in Denney Hall 311

Billy-Ray Belcourt (he/him) is a writer and academic from the Driftpile Cree nation. He is a PhD candidate and 2018 Pierre Elliott Trudeau Foundation Scholar in the Department of English and Film Studies at the University of Alberta; his doctoral project is a creative-theoretical one called "The Conspiracy of NDN Joy." He is also a 2016 Rhodes Scholar and holds an M.St. in women's studies from the University of Oxford and Wadham College. In the First Nations Youth category, Belcourt was awarded a 2019 Indspire Award, which is the highest honor the Indigenous community bestows on its own leaders. In January 2020, he will be an assistant professor of Indigenous creative writing at the University of British Columbia.
 

Visiting Writer Nicole Sealey
Friday, October 18 at 4 p.m. in Denney Hall 311
MFA Workshop: Saturday, October 19 in Denney Hall 311

Born in St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands and raised in Apopka, Florida, Nicole Sealey is the author of Ordinary Beast, finalist for the PEN Open Book and Hurston/Wright Legacy Awards, and The Animal After Whom Other Animals Are Named, winner of the Drinking Gourd Chapbook Poetry Prize. Her other honors include a 2019 Rome Prize, the Stanley Kunitz Memorial Prize from The American Poetry Review, the Poetry International Prize and a Daniel Varoujan Award, grants from the Elizabeth George and Jerome Foundations, as well as fellowships from the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference, CantoMundo, Cave Canem, MacDowell Colony and the Poetry Project. Her work has appeared in The New Yorker and elsewhere. Sealey holds an MLA in Africana studies from the University of South Florida and an MFA in creative writing from New York University. Formerly the executive director at Cave Canem Foundation, she is a 2019-2020 Hodder Fellow at Princeton University.
 

Visiting Writer Dan Kois
Friday, January 24 at 4 p.m. in Denney Hall 311
MFA Workshop: Saturday, January 25 in Denney Hall 311

Dan Kois is the author of How to Be a Family and the co-author of The World Only Spins Forward.
 

Visiting Writer Laura van den Berg
Friday, March 27 at 4 p..m in Denney Hall 311
MFA Workshop: Saturday, March 28 in Denney Hall 311

Laura van den Berg was born and raised in Florida. She is the author of two collections of stories, The Isle of Youth (FSG, 2013) and What the World Will Look Like When All the Water Leaves Us (Dzanc Books, 2009) and the novels Find Me (FSG, 2015) and The Third Hotel (FSG, 2018). van der Berg has taught creative writing in the MFA program at Columbia University, the MFA Program for Writers at Warren Wilson College, the Fine Arts Work Center, the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference and the Tin House Writers’ Workshop. She lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts with her husband, the writer Paul Yoon, and their dog, Oscar. She is a Briggs-Copeland Lecturer in Fiction at Harvard University. Her next book, a collection of stories titled I Hold a Wolf by the Ears, will be published by FSG in 2020.


To view a list of past visiting writers, visit our Creative Writing Program page.

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To find dates, times and locations for these events, check the event calendar.

  • Alumni Writers Extravaganza
    The Alumni Writers Extravaganza is a celebration of Ohio State alumni creative writers and of creating writing at The Ohio State University. This major event takes place every three years. The next AWE will be in 2021. Please check back for more information as it becomes available. 
  • Editors Panel
    This event, coordinated by the Writer's Guild, provides MFA students, as well as the greater university and Columbus community, with the opportunity to get firsthand advice from editors and, in some cases, literary agents. MCs ask questions provided to them by students. 
  • Epilog

    Epilog is an annual public performance which showcases creative work by third-year students in the MFA Program in Creative Writing. Epilog is an opportunity for the public to discover the prose and poetry that is being created by current MFA students. Following brief introductions by creative writing faculty, participating students give readings of their poetry, essays and stories in a formal, gala-like atmosphere. Chapbooks including selections from each of the presenting students are available at the event. This event is sponsored by the Writer's Guild.

  • Student-Faculty Readings
    Twice each semester, a faculty member teams up with several MFA students to give a reading that is open to all. These events are a special showcase for the MFA students to read their work.
  • Mother Tongue (MoTo)
    Mother Tongue evenings offer MFA students an opportunity to read work to their peers in a spirited setting off campus. Students often dedicate much time and creativity to their introductions of one another, fostering an entertaining evening rich with camaraderie. This event is coordinated by the Writer's Guild.
  • Native Craft Reading Series
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Writer's Guild

Each Ohio State University MFA candidate is a member of Writers Guild, an organization dedicated to enhancing student life and the university community through fundraisers, social activities, industry panels and recognition of graduating classmates. Its board serves as a liaison between graduate students and faculty to discuss developments and communicate news.

English Graduate Organization

The English Graduate Organization is a professional development, networking and advocacy group for all graduate students in the English department. EGO allows graduate students to have a tangible impact on departmental decisions and policies. Elected to specific committees, EGO officers coordinate academic and social events, serve on faculty committees and act as liaisons between graduate students and administration, providing a crucial voice in discussions that affect students’ day-to-day lives and future careers. In addition to promoting the interests of a dynamic graduate student body, EGO offers a valuable opportunity for its officers to prepare for service responsibilities in a profession that thrives on self-governance. EGO officers can vote at monthly English Department Council meetings, which all graduate students can attend.

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The award-winning literary journal of The Ohio State University, The Journal contributes significantly toward the literary landscape of Ohio and the nation. The Journal seeks to identify and encourage emerging writers while also attracting the work of established writers to create a diverse and compelling magazine. 

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The Young Writers Workshop is a week-long summer program for high school students in Columbus City Schools, charter schools in the City of Columbus, South-Western City Schools, and Reynoldsburg City Schools. Each year, the Ohio State creative writing faculty choose 30 students from the application pool to come live on campus and study writing with writers from around the country, including current students in and alumni of the Department of English's MFA Program in Creative Writing. Students are selected based on the promise of their writing — we don’t ask for grades or letters of recommendation, just a statement of intent and writing samples. The program is entirely funded by a generous donor, and all participating students receive full scholarships. 

Students attend daily workshops and courses taught by Ohio State faculty, graduate alumni and graduate students and have time to work on their own writing every day as well as attend readings, sessions with visiting writers in various fields, and other events, and participate in an open mic reading of their own work. The program concludes with a capstone event honoring the students and their families.

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  • The Haidee Forsyth Burkhardt Award in Creative Nonfiction ($100): For the best essay or nonfiction book chapter by a graduate student.
  • The Tara M. Kroger Award ($100): For the best short story by a student in the MFA Program in Creative Writing.
  • The Vandewater Poetry Award ($1,000): For the best poem or group of no more than three poems by a graduate student.
  • The Helen Earnhart Harley Creative Writing Fellowship Award in Fiction ($600): For the best body of fiction (a story, multiple stories, or an excerpt of a book-length work -- totaling no more than 25 pages) by a 2nd or 3rd year student in the MFA Program in Creative Writing.
  • The Helen Earnhart Harley Creative Writing Fellowship Award in Nonfiction ($600): For the best body of non-fiction (an essay, multiple essays, or an excerpt of a book-length work — totaling no more than 25 pages) by a second or third year student in the MFA Program in Creative Writing
  • The Helen Earnhart Harley Creative Writing Fellowship Award in Poetry ($600): For the best body of poetry (of no more than 15 pages) by a second or third year student in the MFA Program in Creative Writing.
  • The Academy of American Poets Award (The Arthur Rense Prize) ($100): For the best poem or group of no more than three poems (open to graduate and undergraduate students)

To view a list of award winners, visit the Graduate Student Awards page.

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Students in the MFA program must complete 39 semester hours of graduate-level course work, including:

  • Fifteen (15) hours of graduate creative writing workshops (we encourage, but do not require, 3 hours in a genre other than the student's declared major genre). Workshops are repeatable.  (Students may take more than the minimum number if they choose, and when working outside their "home" genres may take either the .01 or .02 sections.  The .02 sections are designed for writers with little experience in those genres.)  The workshops we offer are:
    • English 6763.01 Graduate Workshop in Poetry (3 credits)
    • English 6763.02 Graduate Workshop in Poetry for MFA Students in Fiction or Creative Nonfiction (3 credits)
    • English 6765.01 Graduate Workshop in Fiction (3 credits)
    • English 6765.02 Graduate Workshop in Fiction for MFA Students in Poetry or Creative Nonfiction (3 credits)
    • English 6768 Graduate Workshop in Creative Nonfiction (3 credits)
    • English 6769 Graduate Workshop in Creative Writing - Special Topics (3 credits)
    • English 6764 Graduate Workshop in Screenwriting (3 credits)
  • Nine (9) hours of English other than creative writing courses. A maximum of 3 hours of Independent Study may be counted toward fulfilling this requirement.  English 6781 (Introduction to the Teaching of First-Year English) may be counted toward  this total. Students are encouraged, but not required, to choose additional courses from OSU's broad offerings in literary studies, including the study of narrative, as well as folklore, film, linguistics, and other areas.
  • Three (3) hours of a course in literary forms (English 7871). Forms of Poetry and Forms of Fiction or Nonfiction are offered every year.  Topics vary; this course may be repeated.
  • Three (3) hours of electives in related areas (e.g., other art forms such as music, theater, or the visual arts; philosophy; history; literature as offered by departments other than our own, such as foreign language departments; comparative studies–or another relevant course approved by the student's advisor).  Courses must be taken at the graduate level (5000 level or above).  (Other elective courses, not counted toward credits required for graduation, may be taken at any level.)
  • Nine (9) hours of creative thesis tutorial (English 8998); and an approved creative thesis, followed by an oral defense.

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APPLICATION INFORMATION

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All admitted students are fully funded for our three-year MFA program in Creative Writing. This means that if you are accepted into our program, you would not pay tuition. In addition, all students receive either a graduate teaching associateship, a Graduate School fellowship or a combination of the two. Funding is renewed on a yearly basis as long as the student maintains satisfactory academic progress.

  • Graduate teaching associateships: Departmental funding is most often in the form of a graduate teaching associateship, for which the student receives a stipend of at least $17,000 for the nine-month academic year. The Department of English also subsidizes 85% of student health insurance premiums and provides a tuition waiver for all GTAs. Students are responsible for COTA bus, student activity, Student Union and Recreation Center fees. Students on GTA appointments teach one course per term during the regular academic year.
  • Graduate School fellowships: In addition to the funding provided by the Department of English, the Graduate School awards University and Enrichment Fellowships on a competitive basis to students who are new to graduate education at Ohio State. The Department of English's admissions committee submits nominations to the Graduate School’s competition, and a selection committee reviewing nominations from across all graduate programs in the university awards the fellowships. Students may not apply directly for fellowship support. Each graduate program has a limited number of students who may be nominated for fellowship consideration. All Graduate School fellowships provide a monthly stipend, academic tuition and fees and a subsidy of 85% of the student health insurance premiums. These fellowships are nonrenewable and may not be deferred. 
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The Graduate Admissions Committee for the Department of English will accept applications to the MFA program from students with a bachelor's degree in English or a minimum of 40 quarter hours (27 semester hours) of English coursework from an accredited college or university. 

The Graduate School requires that those admitted have an undergraduate grade point average of at least 3.0 on a scale of 4 (where 4.0=A) and at least a 3.0 on all previous graduate work. Our departmental criteria are higher: A GPA of at least 3.2 overall is preferred. Coursework in a foreign language is not required for admission.

If you have already earned an MFA in creative writing or are in the process of completing an MFA program in creative writing, you are not eligible for admission to our program. 

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Submit all following items through the Graduate Admissions Office:

  • Application form and fee: If you are interested in a fee waiver, please visit this Graduate and Professional Admissions webpage.
  • Three letters of recommendation: Please have your recommenders submit letters electronically using the link that will be provided when you select this option in the online application. Our preference is that your recommenders be faculty who have taught you or writers familiar with your work, as these are likely to be most useful to us.  But we understand that for those who have been out of school for some time and those who have not participated in writing workshops or conferences, this may be impossible. You will not be penalized for this, but we do ask that you choose your recommenders carefully from among the options you do have — those who have had the opportunity to work with you or supervise your work, for example. We can accept letters from Interfolio; however, they must come in through our online application system. Instructions for requesting this from Interfolio can be found on their website under Confidential Letter Uploads to Online Application Systems.
  • Transcripts or record of marks for each university-level school attended: Visit this Graduate and Professional Admissions page for detailed information about transcript submission. Send transcripts to the Office of Graduate and Professional Admissions; do not send transcripts to the Department of English. Include English translation of each of any foreign documents. Please do not send transcripts of course work taken at Ohio State as the Office of Graduate and Professional Admissions will obtain them directly from the Office of the University Registrar (at no cost to you).
  • Personal statement (one to two single-spaced pages): that describes your background as a writer and your purpose in pursuing this degree; this statement should address your writing interests and can also briefly describe your interest and/or experience in teaching.
  • Creative writing sample: 15 to 25 pages of poetry; or 20 to 40 double-spaced pages of fiction; or 20 to 40 double-spaced pages of nonfiction. On the application uploader, upload your creative writing sample to the “Writing Sample” option. The writing sample is the most important part of your application. Please note that admission is to a single genre, so applicants should choose carefully the genre in which they wish to be considered.
  • Curriculum vitae/resume of no more than two pages.

As of autumn 2018, the Department of English at Ohio State no longer requires GRE scores for applications to its PhD or MFA programs. 

Incomplete applications will not be considered.

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If your native language is not English:

  • 600 Paper-based TOEFL 
  • 100 Internet-based TOEFL (IBT)
  • 86 MELAB
  • 8.0 IELTS 
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All admissions to the MFA program are made for the autumn semester only; the application deadline for autumn 2020 is December 2, 2019. NOTE: If you are an international applicant, the application deadline for autumn 2020 is November 25, 2019.

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  • Do you accept applications for genre fiction?
    While we don’t in any way dislike or discourage genre fiction, our program is known for its literary fiction, nonfiction and poetry instructors and graduates. Familiarizing yourself with them and their work might be your best and most productive research as you consider to which programs you will apply.
     
  • Can I talk to current students and/or faculty at Ohio State?
    We very much appreciate your interest in our program, and we wish that all prospective students had the opportunity to speak with current students and/or faculty. With the volume of applications we receive each year, however, we are unfortunately unable to accommodate these requests. Admitted students are invited to attend our open house in the spring and meet current students and faculty members at that time.
     
  • I don’t have the required amount of English coursework listed on this page. What should I do?
    We would encourage you to apply. If your writing sample and application materials match what the committee is looking for, the credit requirement will be waived. It will not negatively impact your application in any way.
     
  • Can I apply for a fee waiver?
    If you are interested in applying for a fee waiver, please visit this webpage. Please note that the “PGD Program” option is unavailable to students applying for admission to the Department of English.
     
  • What if my recommenders don’t know me in a creative writing capacity?
    Our preference is that your recommenders be faculty who have taught you or writers familiar with your work, as these are likely to be most useful to us. However, we understand that for those who have been out of school for some time, and those who have not participated in writing workshops or conferences, this may be impossible. You will not be penalized for this, but we do ask that you choose your recommenders carefully from among the options you do have — those who have had the opportunity to work with you or supervise your work, for example.
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For questions that can't be answered by the information above, the Creative Writing Program can be reached by email or phone (614-292-4363).