My 2018 Year in Review

We’re a few months in to 2019, but I’d like to take a moment to reflect on the year behind us and plan for the months that remain in the year ahead. I usually like to make this post in January, but sometimes life has other ideas. Good thing there’s never a bad time for reflection and self-improvement! 😉

Notable Reads:


One of Us Is Lying by Karen M. McManus

A dark, modern twist on The Breakfast Club, this YA thriller pulls out all the stops until the heart-stopping ending (at which point I realized I still had not seen that classic 80’s film and felt compelled to fix that). In this rendition, five teens from five very different worlds are placed in detention together—but one doesn’t make it out alive. The remaining four are forced to battle brutal media attention with the odds stacked against them. They either have to come clean—or unravel the mystery themselves. I was on edge in anticipation with the reveal of each clue. The steamy romance that blossoms between suspects was also well-thought-out. McManus spins a page-turner I couldn’t put down until the killer was revealed (which I predicted—yay). I’m pumped for her new thriller, Two Can Keep A Secret, which was released at the dawn of the new year. It’s hot on my TBR list!


What Editors Do by Peter Ginna

In my endeavor to become a Book Publishing Professional, this treasure was a godsend. I devoured it from cover to cover. Without a bona fide “publishing” major or course in undergrad, everything I knew about the industry up until that point had been self-taught through independent research. This book should be required reading in every English program! It has proven to be an invaluable resource, just as the accolades promised. In fact, the words of the 26 essayists have both inspired a new appreciation for and solidified my passion to work in editorial. They cover not just the stages of the editing process, but also how those types of editing are unique to the type of publisher. Did you know there are several kinds of publishing? There’s trade, academic/scholarly, and professional/reference/textbook, just to name a few. Lead editor Ginna’s main conclusion stood out to me: it’s not your skill with the red pen (i.e. copyediting) that sets you up for success, but your ability to discern quality writing. He taught me that acquisitions is the meat and potatoes of publishing. It sets the ball rolling, and every other department (editorial, marketing, sales, etc.) depends on it. These wise words from Ginna continue to inform my decisions as I embark on my journey to fulfill one part of my two-fold dream career (the other part being a novelist, of course!).

New Author Spotlight:

Laura M. SniderWitches' Quarters by Laura M. SniderI’d like to introduce Laura M. Snider, a Des Moines native and Drake alum who made her debut thiyear with YA fantasy novel Witches Quarters. A professional lawyer of over 10 years, this is her first foray into creative writing, and I was blown away! It’s about four siblings who discover quarters that transport them to another land—the land on the back of the coin. Keep an eye on this gal—she’s going to take the literary world by storm!

Author Updates:

A Literary Milestone

My debut medieval historical fiction The Kiss of Death (Kellan Publishing, 2015), turned three this year, and I happily renewed my contract with my publisher. I’m excited to continue Elizabeth and Matthias’s journey in the sequel I’m working on!

“Historical Authors Across Time” Guest Feature

The fabulous Cynthia Ripley Miller (fellow history buff and Italian gal after my own heart!) was so kind as to feature me on her blog Historical Authors Across Time! In my guest post “Inside the 14th Century Plague Era,” I take a look at how the plague devastated 1/3 of medieval Europe’s population.

Speaking Engagements

Sarah Natale (Mondello)'s Presentation for Kingston's Creative Writing Seniors at CLC 003

Speaking to Creative Writing seniors at CLC

Since moving back home to Chicagoland after four years in Iowa for college, I’ve had the opportunity to resume one of my favorite activities—public speaking! I’ve been visiting local middle and high schools giving a presentation called “Book Publishing 101.” My presentation covers writing tips for students and explains routes available for them to publish their writing—all from my perspective of navigating the industry at a young age. Given my age, the goal of my presentation is to inform and inspire young minds by demystifying writing and publishing as an accessible career path. It’s a lot of fun, and the students I meet have endless, perceptive questions about the writing and publishing process. It means so much to have the opportunity to show young people what they can do with a little passion and a lot of hard work and persistence, especially since I’ve once been in their shoes!

Sarah Natale (Mondello)'s Presentation for Walkner's 4th hr Creative Writing Seniors at CLC 008

Returning to Crystal lake Central High School (CLC) to speak to the Creative Writing seniors was extra special given my unique path: I was once the same age, in the same class, and at the same school as the students I spoke to when a story I wrote as an assignment received a book deal with a publisher. It was incredibly surreal to return to Jerry Thiel’s classroom and continue his legacy—this time leading the class!

fall 2018 stats infographic

Thank you to all the students, teachers, and school district members who have made 2018 such a fulfilling year of public speaking on my favorite topic: Book Publishing 101. Here’s to 2019!

You can follow my upcoming events or invite me to speak at yours here.

(Lit)erary Swag

300 KOD Bookmarks 074

I’ve never seen so many bookmarks in one place!

At long last, I have some fun swag for The Kiss of Death! As some of you might know, I had tried to get bookmarks made for my Barnes & Noble Book Launch event, but it didn’t work out due to a printer problem, and my author business cards had to suffice. Now, three years later, I finally had some ready in time for my classroom presentations. Hundreds of books have and will be well-dressed!

A Historic Keepsake

Christmas Village 2018 007 - best

Glad to give this replica of the 1924 school building that is now CLC a home in our family Christmas village!

As a thoughtful guest speaker than-you, Crystal Lake Central High School gave me this gorgeous ceramic replica of the original 1924 school building. The Crystal Lake Historical Society commissioned a limited number of them. This historical keepsake has earned a plot of land in my family’s Christmas village!


Academic Milestones:



Officially a college graduate!

That’s a wrap! In May I graduated Summa Cum Laude from Drake University. My four years resulted in a BA (Bachelor of Arts in Writing), BAJMC (Bachelor of Arts in Journalism and Mass Communication for Public Relations), minor in Graphic Design, and countless memories. It has been a wild ride—or should I say balancing act?—of school, friends, work, and sleep. I’m thankful to everyone along the way who contributed to a full but steady plate! I’m one proud Bulldog. Now, onto the next chapter.

Public Relations Capstone

Iris CV Book p1 (600 dpi, rgb, border)

PR Plan for Creative Visions, a respected nonprofit in the Des Moines community

My team and I have officially completed Drake’s PR Capstone—our year-long culminating senior project! Our 10-person agency, IRIS Communications, produced a 120-page PR campaign for our client, Creative Visions Human Development Institute. It was an intense last few weeks collaborating with team members to prepare it (especially since I was the Book Editor!), but it was definitely a labor of love. Now that’s what I call concluding senior year with a bang!

Typography Class Portfolio


Experimenting with typography to establish a visual context for one of my favorite quotes

Building a portfolio through exploring and experimenting with typographic elements made this one of my favorite Graphic Design courses at Drake. It provided the opportunity to study the parts of letterforms to learn what makes a typeface unique; achieve visual space equilibrium between letterforms through leading and kerning; establish visual context for a quote through contrast, meaning, and hierarchy; use information hierarchy to logically organize a book’s front matter; and create my own modular typeface for a 24”x36” poster. Each project built upon the last. The one I enjoyed most involved recreating one of my favorite classic novels from the public domain. I designed the cover treatment and internals (front and back matter plus first three chapters) and laid them into page flow. 


Cover treatment for 1847 novel Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë

I then printed, bound, and trimmed the resulting mini 50-page book! Learning how to create a grid and visual hierarchy to organize the internals was an eye-opening experience, and I have a new appreciation for book publishing. I never knew how much work went into simply arranging the text of the books I read every day!


Professional Developments:

Public Relations Capstone Award

My team’s Capstone plan won the 2018 PRIME Award in the Student Campaign Category from PRSA Central Iowa! The award is on display in Drake’s School of Journalism and Mass Communication trophy case. I couldn’t be prouder of our hard work!

Certified in Principles of Public Relations

Sarah Natale Mondello receiving Certificate in Principles of Public Relations

Now certified in Principles of PR!

I thought I was done with standardized tests forever when I took the college ACT (for the last time) all those years ago, but at the encouragement of wise professors, I bit the bullet and took one more. Now, I hold a Certificate in Principles of Public Relations from the Universal Accreditation Board and Public Relations Society of America (PRSA). It’s essentially a way for recent or soon-to-be PR grads to earn a competitive advantage toward entering the workforce. I couldn’t have done it without the great practice we had through Drake’s rigorous PR program—constant application of textbook concepts for real-world clients, of which PR Capstone in particular was excellent preparation.

Communications Fraternity

This year I was invited to join one of the oldest college honor societies, Kappa Tau Alpha. I’m now a member of Drake’s chapter of this Journalism and Mass Communication National Honor Society for life. Pretty cool to be part of a special group for both of my majors, huh? (I previously joined Sigma Tau Delta, the international honor society for English nerds!)

My First Office Job

In the fall, I took a step closer toward my dream of becoming a Book Publishing Professional. As an Editorial and Marketing Intern for international book publisher Quintessence Publishing, I got to experience working in an office for the first time ever! (My three internships up to this point had all been from behind my computer screen within the walls of my bedroom—how crazy is that?!). I love that I got to make use of my three degrees, combining editorial skills with graphic design technique to produce marketing materials for their authors’ books.

My First Car

I also got to experience commuter life for my new office job, for which I needed some wheels. At ten years old with only 18,000 miles, my first car came as a blessing in a serendipitous purchase from a little old lady. She gave my parents and me each angel tokens to watch over and bless me with safe driving. What a sweetheart!

What’s Next

Thanks for following along on my journey as I continue to chase my crazy literary dreams of working in publishing: helping writers bring their books into the world, creating my own books to bring into the world, and sharing what I’ve learned with others.

New to the blog? Check out My 2017 Year in Review for last year’s recap. In the meantime, carry on, 2019! (And enough with the Polar Vortex subzero temps, please.)

~ Sarah

Find The Kiss of Death at Kellan Publishing, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or Kobo.


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