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Working with A Writing Coach: An Expert Interview with Gail Kerzner

Updated: Feb 5

Meet Gail Kerzner of The Savvy Red Pen

Gail Kerzner of The Savvy Red Pen is a seasoned writing coach, copy editor, and proofreader who works with nonfiction authors in the self-publishing realm and college-bound students on their admissions and scholarship essays. Her goal is to help make writers' dreams come true by coaching them from concept to draft to finished project. She provides personal coaching services, writing challenges, manuscript evaluation, copy editing, proofreading, and project management for authors working on traditional nonfiction, creative nonfiction, self-help, and memoir. Her services for students include individual and group coaching where she helps them navigate the process of identifying an idea and developing it into a memorable, engaging, well-written essay. She also works with college students applying for graduate school on their personal statements.


An Expert Interview with Gail Kerzner

Q: What do you find most satisfying about working with people on their writing?

Gail Kerzner: I get to be their personal coach—their word guide, cheerleader, and confidante. Each writer, whether aspiring author or college-bound high school student, has a unique story to tell, and I love being part of their journey to move them from draft to dream. As a collaborative partner, I'm grateful for the chance to see their idea come to life and celebrate their success.

Q: I know you’ve got some magic up your sleeve about getting unblocked or getting the process flowing. What’s your secret?

Gail Kerzner: I totally advocate brain dumping to move thoughts from your head to paper. Basically, the process is recording your thoughts about a specific topic by writing them down as you think of them.

You start by taking out a piece of paper and a writing utensil. Put your general topic at the top of the page. Set a timer for five minutes, and write down everything that comes to mind as you're thinking it—words, phrases, sentences. Don't stop to correct spelling or punctuation, and don't judge your ideas. At the end of five minutes, turn over your paper, and take a break for a few minutes. When you come back, turn over your paper, and circle or highlight the main ideas. Try identifying them by using different color markers for ideas that go together.

Then choose one main idea and put it at the top of another piece of paper. Set your timer for five minutes, and repeat the process. Do these detail dumps until you feel like you've emptied your brain.

The last step is to organize your main ideas into some kind of order. Voilà! You've created a preliminary outline for your project.

Q: Most of TWK’s work is with high school students and students making the transition to college. What is the focus of your work with that age group?

Gail Kerzner: As an essay specialist, I work with college-bound high school students on their admissions and scholarship essays. My individual coaching includes helping students identify a unique story that demonstrates their personality, their talents, their strengths and weaknesses. We analyze the various prompts for the common app essays and other required essays to see how the student's story can best address the prompts. We work from idea conception, to draft, to submission, taking the necessary time and effort to revise until the end result is an engaging, memorable, unique, error-free essay.

My goal is to draw out "moments of meaning" stories that students are proud of, reveal their authentic selves, and set them apart from a sea of applicants.

Q: What are 5 things students should keep in mind when crafting the college essay?

Gail Kerzner:

  1. Be introspective, not shallow.

  2. Be authentic, not someone else. Tell the truth, write your own essay, and use vocabulary that represents your typical use.

  3. Tell an engaging story. Don't simply lay out a plot. Include details.

  4. Show empathy, passion, and compassion.

  5. Don't be predictable. Avoid clichés.

And it goes without saying, a starworthy essay is well-written.


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