Our Team


Award-winning author ANN DEFEE—BA, MA, MURP, AICP, ¾ of an MPA and a Department of Defense Teaching Certificate—spent several years in the world of education. Corralling high school students was challenging, creating innovative college classes was stimulating and helping women improve their lives through vocational education was rewarding.

The second era of Ann’s career was a quantum leap into the high-stakes world of land-use planning and urban development. In that arena, Ann was the city’s project manager for the development of a 3,300 acre/billion dollar planned community in a suburb of Seattle. In that role she was also the WA SEPA Responsible Official in charge of the environmental review for all projects in a town that doubled in size in less than a decade. Ann was also the liaison to the Washington Department of Transportation relating to the construction of a freeway interchange.

Following her Gemini personality, Ann then nourished her artistic side by jumping into the wacky realm of publishing. Her first novel was published by Harlequin American in 2005 and was a Rita Finalist in the Best First Book and Best Long Contemporary categories. From that beginning she wrote twelve Harlequin books, three additional books for Bellastoria Press and accrued four international book awards.


As a managing partner in Bellastoria Press LLP she’s the Editorial Managing Director and enjoys discovering new talent and assisting seasoned authors in writing the book of their heart.

LINDA CARDILLO is an award-winning author and businesswoman whose professional career has included leadership roles in both publishing and non-profit management.


Linda began her publishing career as an editor at Houghton Mifflin Company before earning an MBA at Harvard Business School at a time when women represented only 15% of the class. Armed with her Harvard degree, she managed the circulation of Inc. magazine during its successful start-up, founded a catering business and then built a career as the author of several works of nonfiction, from articles in The New York Times to books on marketing and corporate policy. Her research in corporate charitable contributions led to her next career managing development operations for academic and cultural institutions.


Throughout her working life, Linda wrote fiction and heeded Toni Morrison’s advice of “Don’t quit your day job.” Her first four books were published by Harlequin, beginning in 2007; the next six have been produced by Bellastoria Press.


Linda’s roles in Bellastoria Press include oversight of financial operations, responsibility for creative design strategy and wearer of the crown of spreadsheet queen.

VANA NESPOR dedicated most of her work-life to creating innovative college degree programs to help adult women return to and finish college in Oklahoma, West Virginia, Virginia, Pennsylvania, and as a teacher at Jakarta International School in Indonesia. Between 1999-2018, she helped Bay Path University build highly successful degree programs for adult women across the state and online, including The One-Day-A-Week College and The American Women’s College.

In addition to her academic career, Vana filled her weekends and evenings writing and directing theater, delivering more than seventy musicals and dramas for communities in the US and Jakarta.

Vana is passionate about learning and taking on exciting new ventures, as evidenced by numerous degrees (BA, MA, MEd, MS, Ed.D.) and projects. Yet, she is most excited about what 2020 holds: earning her MFA in Creative Nonfiction at Bay Path University, joining Bellastoria Press as a new partner and completing her memoir, A Woman’s Education. She hopes her work at Bellastoria will help “more women’s stories get out into the world.”


SUSANNE DUNLAP is the author of nine historical novels for adults and teens. Her young adult historical novel, The Musician’s Daughter, was a Junior Library Guild Selection and a Bank Street Children’s Book of the Year, and was nominated for the Missouri Gateway Reader’s Prize and the Utah Book Award. Her most recent books, Listen to the Wind and The Spirit of Fire are the first two books of a medieval trilogy published by Bellastoria Press.


Susanne’s varied resume includes decades of writing advertising copy in New York and London, a PhD in music history from Yale University, and co-founding a tech startup. She has worked with authors on everything from speculative fiction to contemporary YA to memoir to academic writing, helping them polish and hone their work. Susanne is an Author Accelerator Advanced Certified Book Coach. In addition to editing and coaching, she teaches workshops on writing craft at Writers in Progress.

PAULA EYKELHOF is a former (retired) Executive Editor at Harlequin Books (now a division of Harper Collins). She was with the company for more than 30 years.


Paula worked with a number of New York Times and USA Today bestselling authors. She was responsible for various series programs (including Romance, Superromance,  American Romance and Everlasting), as well as working on single-title imprints, principally MIRA and HQN.


She gave many workshops and speeches through the years and has also written a number of blogs on writing-related issues, most recently for Bellastoria Press. She has also advised many aspiring authors.


Paula is now working as a freelance editor and writer.

NATALIE DEFEE MENDIK is an eight-time American Horse Publications ‘Equine Media Award’ winner who specializes in international equestrian journalism. Her clients include Horse Illustrated, United States Dressage Federation, American Vaulting Association, Arabian Horse Association, The Horse (media partner with the American Association of Equine Practitioners), Equine Journal and more. She’s a member of the International Alliance of Equestrian Journalists and holds an International Federation of Journalists' International Press Card. Natalie has a Masters of Arts in Teaching English and has taught extensively in private and public schools in Switzerland. She currently lives in Colorado, where she enjoys hiking and training horses.


ERIN BINNEY has been working in publishing for over 20 years, first as a reporter and later as a news editor. These days, as a copyeditor, her main goal is to help writers of all genres engage readers with clear, clean, compelling prose that preserves the writer’s unique voice. She considers it an honor to be able to help people tell their stories.


Erin has a B.A. in English with a concentration in creative writing and a graduate-level certificate in professional editing. She is currently a student in Bay Path University’s MFA program in creative nonfiction writing and expects to graduate in 2021.


When she’s not working with words, Erin enjoys researching her family history, visiting National Parks, and listening to her righteous acoustic jam.

MARIA ELSDEN is scheduled to graduate in 2020 with an MFA in creative nonfiction from Bay Path University. She considers herself fortunate to have been invited to intern at Bellastoria Press and has assisted us in a variety of administrative duties.  Maria comes to us having recently retired from thirty years as a municipal attorney, focusing on land use matters, which she very much loved and where she continues to assist part-time.


Maria grew up in the Hungry Hill section of Springfield, Mass. (Home of the Irish, although she isn't), a location she holds dear and that often factors into her writing. She lives on the Connecticut River with her retired CPA husband and two tabby cats. 

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