My 2022 Year in Review

I find that sometimes I have my best reflections a few months after the new year has begun. So, as the snow begins to melt and spring begins to arrive here in Chicagoland, I’ve compiled my top moments from 2022.

Notable Reads:

I tried to reel myself in this year and not go crazy detailing every book I loved, so I’d like to spotlight two duology openers that captivated me, both children’s fantasy.

In Rhodes’s new series for young adults, a spoiled high-society teen grows up in a world where magic is outlawed—the source of all evil. When she accidentally becomes contaminated with this evil magic, she must leave her perfect life behind and team up with a snarky, broody—and swoony!—criminal to find a cure before the Queen finds out and shuns her from the palace. Rhodes’ high fantasy world-building, remarkable character growth, and enemies-to-lovers romance took my breath away!

O’Neill’s middle grade debut paints an urban fantasy where fairy-tale characters exist, they live among us in secret, and—contrary to the fables—they’re not actually very nice. When a young girl accidentally angers some princesses, they wage a vendetta against her, and she must figure out how to give them what they want before they weave her into their fantasy web!

I loved how in both of these tales, young women stumble into the secret magical underworlds of their societies and must embark on adventures and think fast in order to save themselves (and the world). The sequels come out in 2023! Whether it’s fairy-tale characters or magic itself—a world where the fantastical is real never fails to capture my attention!

Current Events:

Engagement 💍

“You’ve been my honey for 10 years; I want you to be my honey forever.”
“A carat for my bunny.”
“You’re now my funny—my fiancée honey.”

Easiest “yes” of my life! On our 10-Year (Golden) Anniversary on 10/10 with my high school sweetheart, I became the luckiest gal alive. Can’t wait to spend forever with the guy who always makes me smile! Thanks to Mila Craila Photography for capturing our special day surrounded by nature!

Meeting Mountain Penguins 🐧

Who would have thought the Penguins live out west?! Not just on the east coast!

During my travels this year, I was in the area of one of the Penguin Random House offices, so of course I had to stop by! I work remotely as a Freelance Editor, so it was exciting to see what a gorgeous view my fellow Penguins (of the office-dwelling variety) have in Colorado Springs! Fun to see books being made outside New York City, as well! Definitely worth the trip!

A Life Well-Lived 💕

Samuel A. Mondello, Sr.

This year the Lord called my sweet grandpa home. At 90 years old, he was blessed to celebrate 71 loving years together with my grandma. He lived a long, full life! While it was a sad moment for us, I know he’s been busy reuniting with his parents and daughter in heaven.

Pictured is one of my favorite memories: our special trip to 6 Flags Great America when I was 5 years old. He won me a giant, stuffed Blue Doggy—it was bigger than me! Those are times I will always cherish. Dear Papa, you will be dearly missed.

But when God calls one child home, He blesses the world with another. And here on earth, a new little great grandchild was born, within just a few days of each other.

Author Updates:

Full Circle 📚

Sarah and the leaning tower of books! (50, to be precise!)

It feels like just yesterday I was holding my first Book Launch event at Barnes & Noble for The Kiss of Death. This year I was fortunate to return to B&N as a guest speaker for my grade school’s fundraiser: St. Thomas School. It was incredibly rewarding to come full circle! A heartfelt thank you to my readers, whose support over the past few years has made for a meaningful writing career.

Historical Fiction Library Display 🧡🖤

March was historical fiction month at my alma mater Crystal Lake Central High School. Lots of great reads in this display—and look what else is featured! Thanks to librarian Katie Shaw for the pic. It made my day to see The Kiss of Death in the wild!

Speaking Engagements 🎤

New Barnes & Noble + Local Author + Book Fair!

I had a lovely time as the guest speaker for the St. Thomas School (STS) Book Fair at the new Barnes & Noble! Such a fun way to support my elementary/middle school alma mater and welcome the store to our neighborhood. My passion for books and writing first began as a St. Thomas student, and those 9 years provided my foundation. I hope my presentation inspired prospective parents in the audience to send their children to St. Thomas!

Attendees were in and out, and in total we had quite a good turn-out considering the poor weather—over 50 people braved the near-freezing temps and downpour to hear me speak! (March is always a wild card, and the event was bookended with gorgeous, sunny 60s and 70s days, while we had 30s. Go figure!) My presentation covered the writing process, how to get published, and my personal journey leading to the publication of my first book as a teenager. I handed out Book Fair vouchers, and I was thrilled to see attendees whom I brought to the event (from outside the STS community!) also purchase books throughout the store, which went toward the fundraiser.

Plus, there were a few special guests in attendance: Jerry Thiel, whose Creative Writing assignment at Crystal Lake Central High School changed my life by kickstarting my author career. Peg Pappa, my STS art teacher whose fine artistry brought my words to life on the cover illustration of my debut. Finally, Gina Houston, my STS librarian and now the principal, whose lovely introduction opened my presentation. It was really special to have them all in the audience!

My event was even featured in the Northwest Herald newspaper, and attendees showed up clutching a clipping of the article—déjà vu to my B&N Book Launch event, back when I was a teenager! I can’t believe my voice has reached over 2,000 people through nearly 40 presentations since then. I’ve come such a long way, and I’ve learned so much about the craft of writing, the business of publishing, and life!

Learn more about my upcoming events or invite me to speak at yours here.

Recognition from a Politician 🤝

Who would have thought my brief appearance in the local paper would get noticed by an IL state representative?! Super cool. Thanks for thinking of me, Representative Suzanne Ness!

Press 📰

Professional Developments:

New Client Alerts 📚

Look out, book world! I’m branching out!

This year I was blessed to sign two new clients: HarperCollins and Simon & Schuster, two of the leading book publishers. (And yes, I’m still with Penguin Random House, too, for those of you who were wondering!) It’s been a joy and privilege to work on so many amazing children’s books this year as a Freelance Editor. I love that I’ll get to see many of them on the shelf in 2023, which is exciting!

“Drunk Penguin” (by TMeekest on

My fiancé’s take on my clients:
JB: My Little Penguin 🐧
Me: Not just a penguin anymore, honey!
JB: My Little . . . HarperCollins. What’s their logo?
Me: Fire and water 🔥💦
JB: My Little Drinky Penguin! *flapping wings* Waddling around even more than usual!
Me: What’re you gonna call me when I join more companies? 😅

Personal Ponderings:

Visiting the Penguin Random House offices, Colorado

Crossing the Map 🌎

At the lake, Wisconsin

I’ve been all over the map this year! I can’t believe I went on 5 trips, some of them back-to-back, and all of them within the first half of the year. *whew* That was enough travel for a lifetime. I decided not leave the house until 2023! Haha.

I visited Colorado and Wisconsin with family for my grandpa’s celebration of life (bittersweet), Florida with friends (relaxing), Minnesota with friends for a wedding (fun), and Iowa for a friend’s bday in our old college stomping grounds (nostalgic). It’s so nice to explore new (and old!) places and spend time with loved ones. Here are a few highlights from my adventures:

Colorado: Family Comfort

Overlooking the mountain view, Colorado

My 90-year-old grandpa passed away quite suddenly early in the year, so we took an unexpected trip out west to comfort and support my 89-year-old grandma. They were married 71 years! We celebrated their 70th anniversary last summer during a wonderful family reunion, rescheduled from 2020 due to the pandemic. That fall, they sold their house in Arizona and moved in with family in Colorado, so they’d be closer to the rest of the family. It was a difficult transition for everyone, but a necessary one. Then my cousin welcomed a new little bundle of joy into the world right around the time my grandpa would have become a great-grandpa again. It’s been bittersweet, but the timing of events couldn’t have been better.

Wisconsin: Bittersweet Celebration of Life

Meeting my new baby cousin, Jack 💙

Later in the year, my family gathered for a lovely week-long series of events celebrating my grandpa’s life. They rented a lake house just over the border of Wisconsin near Richmond, Illinois, where my grandparents lived for several years in a log cabin they built in the 70s on several acres of land. My grandparents stopped traveling years ago after their last visit to Illinois for my high school graduation, but it was important to my grandma to return and hold the services here, as well as to see extended family and friends. She and my immediate family flew in from Colorado and we had a full house on the lake—nearly 20 people! Plus, I got to meet my new baby cousin, whose birth couldn’t have come at a better time. My grandma loved seeing us all together. My grandpa lived a full life!

During the funeral Mass, my dad (the oldest child) and I read tributes we’d written. He spoke from the son’s perspective, and I spoke from the grandchild’s perspective. Having never written a eulogy before, it was the strangest writing experience I’ve had, but also kind of cathartic in a way. It felt like the most important creation I’ve made in a long time!

🎶“Over the river and through the woods, to grandmother’s house we go!”🎶

One of my aunts had stayed in contact with the woman who bought the Richmond property, so we made arrangements to visit and check out the renovations she’d done. While we were there, my dad and I dug up the time capsule we’d buried 20 years ago, just before my grandparents sold their house and moved out west. The items inside were damp, but they all survived! We had a kick out of poring through the old letters and photos. We used the VHS video of the burial my dad had filmed to remember where to dig. We also filmed the dig—we’ll need to put the two videos side by side one day! My dad has always been great about documenting family memories. Watch the dig unfold and check out the treasures we found!

Florida: Fun with Friends

This trip involved a 14-hour drive to Florida (and 18 on the way back) to spend a week on the beach with friends. I’d never been, and the ocean was magnificent. The house we rented also had its own pool in the backyard! I was surprised to find the weather similar to the hot humidity of high summer in Chicagoland. We had a blast catching various critters: lizards, crabs, jellyfish, and tiny fish.

Minnesota: College Friend’s Wedding

A marina on the border of Wisconsin and Minnesota

I concluded my travel for the year with a trip to Minnesota for a long weekend to celebrate my college friend’s wedding. I’d never been to that state, either! They wanted to have a traditional Pakistani celebration for the husband’s side, so they had a total of four weddings—two spread out over the past two years due to lockdowns, and two during the visit. Add the special dinner, and there were a total of three fancy events to attend during the visit! We rented a house with a group of my college friends so we could spend time together between events, since we’re all spread out across the country now. It was nice to reunite.

What’s Next

When life gives you lemons, frost cupcakes!

Life threw some curveballs my way this year. Several unexpected challenges popped up in my personal life, so I had to pivot, which put a wrench in my goals for the year. Suffice to say it was a rough second half of 2022, but I’m thrilled to start the new year back on my feet and ready to soar!

This little mermaid and her prince are ready to make a splash in 2023!

Day job–wise, I’m focusing on building my client list and taking on more projects. Writing–wise, I’ve got some exciting projects the works: sequels to my medieval plague pandemic tale (the dark, suspenseful style many of you are familiar with), several rom-coms (light, fun, and a step in a different direction), and more! I hope to have some exciting news later this year, so stay tuned, and happy reading!

New to the blog? Check out My 2021 Year in Review for last year’s highlights.

~ Sarah

See you next year!

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