Founder & Editor
Sara Kocek is the founder of Yellow Bird Editors and the author of the novel Promise Me Something (Albert Whitman, 2013). She holds an MFA in Creative Writing from New York University, where she taught fiction and poetry to undergraduates. Prior to pursuing her MFA, Sara graduated with a B.A. in English from Yale University, where her fiction was published in the Yale Literary Magazine and where she was awarded several of the university’s top writing prizes: the Elmore A. Willets Prize, the Francis Bergin Memorial Prize, and the McLaughlin Memorial Prize. A former full-time editorial intern at Random House and Penguin, she now lives in Austin, Texas, where she worked for several years as the Program Director for the Writers’ League of Texas before launching Yellow Bird.
AREAS OF SPECIALTY
- Fiction and narrative nonfiction for all ages.
- Literary & upmarket fiction, women’s fiction, middle grade & young adult novels with contemporary settings, thrillers (especially psychological thrillers), mysteries, historical fiction novels, and memoirs (especially memoirs that read like fiction).
- Within the historical fiction genre, particular areas of interest include WWII-era stories set in Europe or elsewhere, novels set in colonial America, novels set in America during the 1950s-1970s, and novels set in New York City during any time period.
- Short stories, vignettes, personal statements, and college application essays.
- Manuscript critiques, developmental editing, content editing, query letter editing, publishing consultations; writing coaching for adults; college essay coaching for high school students; writing tutorials for kids & teens.
“I am a better writer because of Sara Kocek. She didn’t just fix what was weak; she explained why, teaching me through her edits. Yet, her kind, supportive attitude combined with her sharp understanding of storytelling made me feel more, not less, confident in myself. She doesn’t tear you down, but builds you up by giving you the tools you need to succeed. On the business side, she gave me a fair estimate and returned my manuscript promptly, as promised. She was also accessible later to discuss follow-up questions. Although I was at first unsure about spending money on what might be a pipe dream, I wouldn’t hesitate to do it again, for the return surpassed the investment.”
–Eva Pohler, professor of literature at the University of Texas and the author of The Gatekeeper’s Sons and The Mystery Box
“I asked Sara to edit a lengthy manuscript (my first) that I’d worked on for years–seven to be exact. I had literally worn out all my beta reader friends and lost all objectivity about the manuscript and writing in general. Sara did an amazing job of pointing out some restructuring needs that made so much sense, I wondered why I hadn’t thought of them myself. She also did a detailed line-by-line edit with copious side notes. I felt as if I were getting a personalized creative writing course–well, actually, that is exactly what I did get. I completed all the rewrites that she recommended, but during this process, a vague, unformed notion, which had been flitting through my mind, for a young adult novel sprang into full, technicolor life. I quickly wrote Polarity in Motion and found a publisher. There is no doubt that the work I did with Sara on my first manuscript provided some of the best training of my writing life. I was much better prepared to produce a publishable manuscript because of Sara’s teaching. I will seek her help again, and I highly recommend her to anyone who wants to improve his or her technique! Thank you, Sara! Polarity thanks you, too!”
-Brenda Vicars, author Polarity in Motion (Red Adept Publishing, 2014)
“Sara considerably exceeded my expectations for her developmental edit of my manuscript. She complimented things I was particularly proud of—chapter beginnings and descriptive and anecdotal sections—but she also identified key structural problems and areas where her attention lagged as a reader, and provided workable suggestions for addressing them. Sara helped me think outside the box by offering unique approaches for character actions and reactions, suggesting that since my manuscript stretched the reader’s imagination to begin with, taking it one step further would serve to enhance the story. As I suspect is the case with most authors, I vacillate on any given day between thinking I can tell my story in a unique and compelling way, and wondering if anyone else will enjoy reading it as much as I enjoy writing it. Sara’s critique has given me renewed confidence. I really can do this.”
–Karen Swensson, WLT member and author of Conversations Loosely Translated
“I asked Sara Kocek to critique my novel, and she did a great job. She really “got” the book and appreciated what was good about it, but at the same time she offered some very thoughtful suggestions for improving it. Her comments were specific, insightful, and clearly articulated. Her critique left me feeling encouraged and eager to move forward with my work. Sara is very professional and works well via email, but I also know from attending her occasional classes (which I highly recommend!) that she is friendly and charming in person as well. I fully intend to ask her to read my next novel!”
–Elizabeth Buhmann, WLT member and author of award-winning novel Lay Death at Her Door
“I feel fortunate to have worked with Sara on my chapter edit and critique. Her editing talent, impressive thoroughness, and prompt professionalism surpassed my expectations. Sara’s truly a skilled and experienced professional that assists you in making your work shine and ensures that your work is professionally prepared for publication. Her comments and critique not only guide you, but encourage you. Her work is meticulous and she respectfully maintains the voice of the author. She’s an author’s dream! It was a pleasure and a wonderful learning experience to be edited by Sara. I look forward to working with her in the future for all my editing needs.”
–Sarah A. Kunz, writer
“I took two of Sara’s classes and after each, my writing greatly improved by using her recommendations. Her classes were relevant, organized, clearly communicated, and provided valuable insight into the craft and business of writing. When it was time to edit my manuscript, I wanted Sara to do the work. She discussed the various editing strategies and identified my intended goals, then provided cost options and a predicted turnaround time. Her work was within the timeframe promised and it was exceptional. In addition to partial rewrites, her editing included suggestions for improved dialogue, character development, and storyline progression. All edits were clearly specified and justified with explanations and these were provided in a respectful, constructive manner so that my specific voice was improved but not lost in the editing. The final edits were presented such that it was like taking another one of Sara’s classes. I learned so much more than simply what to change. I learned how to be a better writer and my manuscript came alive in the process.”
–Jim Murray, WLT member and author of Lethal Medicine
"A few years ago I started writing a story I absolutely fell in love with. It is thanks to Sara’s advice, teaching, and editing that I am confident in sharing my story. Although I had experience in research writing and read many books on how to write a novel, working with Sara surmounted that in that I learned how to smoothly control my story’s POV and transitions. My favorite part after developmental editing was the beautiful depth I discovered in my characters and, thanks to Sara’s guidance, was able to confidently express that in my writing. There was a particular story line suggestion from Sara that brought the entire excitement of the plot to a new level. Sara had a master’s intuition in line editing—she understood my intentions behind awkwardly phrased sentences and transformed them into something simple, clear, and to the point. Last but not least, for any first time writer looking to publish, I strongly recommend Sara for help writing your query letter and synopsis. I don’t know how she did it, but she turned this process that felt tedious and scary into something I am excited about to pursue. It is an amazing feeling knowing that everything that makes my story special and unique is communicated clearly in my letter and synopsis. All in all, every aspect of my story—characters, setting, plot, grammar, dialogue, magic ;) —is where I dreamed it to be thanks to Sara, and I am grateful to have found the perfect place for help with my writing in the future.
“Thanks, Sara, for the brilliant editorial job with my book. A well-educated author/ friend referred me to you, and I am very grateful to her for doing so. Aside from spot-on developmental editing, you acknowledged and praised my novel’s strengths while guiding me to powerful solutions for its weaknesses. Your critique of my book resonated with me – it rang of truth that authors buried in their work fail to see. With 67,000 plus words, it’s a challenge to line up all the dots to create the perfect story, so I recommend that any author—whether e-publishing or submitting to agent—ask for Sara’s help in fine-tuning their masterpiece-in-the-making. Whether I e-publish or seek an agent, Sara’s help will be invaluable in helping me sell my novel. So, thanks for caring about my novel and thanks for answering my rebel-driven questions about writing conventions.”
–Kelly K. Lavender, author of award-winning novel Beautiful Evil Winter (Eric Hoffer Award & National Indie Excellence Award)
“I wasn’t sure where to go with the manuscript for my first novel. It had good parts and its share of problems. There were many ways to revise it, and I didn’t know which path to choose. Sara’s critique was extremely helpful, and inspiring. She found the essence of the book and identified what was wrong, and equally importantly, what was right. The critique gave me concrete suggestions on fixing the problems and kick-started some serious character development. I now have a clear idea how to shape my collection of ideas into a novel. Sara is a joy to work with. I’m definitely going to use her services in the future.”
–Jim Olinger, WLT member and author of Dark Flowers
“With my finished manuscript, I knew I had a lot to fix but I didn’t know where to start. My own friends were given a copy to assess it for me, but that route turned up empty. Seeing Sara’s name attached to a Writer’s League of Texas class, I took a leap and came to Yellow Bird Editors for help. I liked knowing who the folks were behind the website, vs. others where their personnel are a mystery. Sara took my 80K words not knowing what she was going to read, and validated everything I felt was needed in the text and more. She specifically pinpointed areas that worked, then gave ideas and direction for improvement, to include character development and plot arc. I was happy she was able to see these items in the context of the whole story. Her analysis included a lot of critical and actionable feedback that encouraged me to continue honing my writing and book. It made me want to clear my desk immediately to get started on the revising process, and more importantly, I look forward to it. I believe I would not have gotten these results anywhere else.”
–Alden Gilroy, WLT member
“I asked Sara to be my content editor for a YA romance novel. Not only did she very thoroughly edit the manuscript, but she also delivered it two weeks early. Sara is everything an author looks for in an editor; she modifies the story’s rhythm and pacing to accommodate the reader while staying fiercely loyal to the author’s personal style of writing. She catches subtle problems that the author would not typically notice and she internalizes what the characters’ distinct personalities are like. Working with Sara was an absolute privilege; it not only made my book better, but it also made ME better as a writer. I highly recommend that all authors see Sara first before finalizing their work.”
–Walucia Gand, author of 10 Reasons Not to Fall in Love
“I am very impressed with the quality of your work and attention to detail. You obviously spent a great deal of time on these fifty pages and I very much appreciate it. I’ve never worked with an editor, so this is a new experience. But your explanations and examples are extremely helpful in helping me understand the points you are making and how I should implement them. I’m very happy with what you have done, though a bit apprehensive about my ability to execute. Again, thanks very much for a great job!”
–Jim Wharton, author of Delirium and The Destiny Project
“Sara is a fine editor with great instincts about how a manuscript should flow. I recently worked with her on a first draft of a novel, and her suggestions were on point with helpful ideas about how to handle both character and plot. Even with Sara’s busy schedule, she was thorough and prompt with her feedback. Of course my novel is my baby, and my baby was in a pair of very caring, capable hands with Sara.”
–Cheryl Pace, 2014 Writers’ League of Texas Manuscript Contest Finalist
"I couldn't be more happy with my choice to use you to provide editorial feedback on this. You have treated their story with the respect I hoped for. I am more motivated than ever to continue. Thanks!"
–Christine Haines, Houston, TX
COLLEGE ESSAY COACHING
“When I decided to apply to New York University on Early Decision, I knew I was taking a big risk. It was my dream school but I wasn’t sure I had the grades or the test scores to meet their high expectations. I knew that if I was to set myself apart from all of the other applicants I would need to have amazing writing supplements. With essay topics ranging from the typical “Why NYU?” to the more unique “What ideas to you have to prevent/eliminate music piracy?”, I had a lot on my plate. Sara took my jumbled mess of ideas and drafts and helped me construct 7 beautifully eloquent essays. I sent in my writing supplements without fear because I knew they were fantastic. I was accepted to NYU— AND my choice program for Music Business— under an extremely selective acceptance rate of 30%. Sara honestly is a super-hero. Without her I would have been second-guessing myself and biting my nails to the bone from the anxiety of writing these essays. She always got her edits back to me quickly with wonderful suggestions on how to improve what I was trying to say, rather than trying to change it. Thanks to her, I’m heading to the big city in August to pursue my dreams! Thank you, Sara!!!”
–Savannah Dew, Austin, TX (accepted early decision to NYU)
“Thank you SO SO SO much for helping me with my essay. I was so unbelievably lost without your guidance, and even though it was the part of my application I was dreading, I ended up really liking it.”
–Anna Peterman, New York, NY (accepted early action to Harvard)
“Giving your very personal college essay to a stranger to review can be a difficult thing to do. Personally, I was most concerned that the editor would judge my writing and wouldn’t be able to express my story in the most clear and precise way. Yet now, I can confidently state that this was a misconception. Ms. Kocek elevated my piece of writing into a masterpiece. Professionalism, creativity, swiftness, and excellence are the most appropriate terms to describe Ms. Kocek’s work. I’m a big fan and would highly recommend her editing services.”