Natalie Pantaleo always thought maybe it was a children’s book that landed her on the shelves of her favorite stores.
The South Philly native had written three children’s books and bought them from publishers just waiting for a nibble. Little did she know, her big break was in her head.
Pantaleo, 57, jotted down vignettes of waiting tables at a famous Philadelphia restaurant and sent a few chapters of his experiences to the end of one of his book proposals. And suddenly, she had a hit novel in her hands. slept with dogs was published by The Awakening Press and received rave reviews from critics on amazon.com, including Best Poster Among New Releases in American Comedy Literature. It will be available for purchase on September 12.
“I had tried the publishing route with children’s books,” Pantaleo recalls. “I tried with the book that had the most appeal and got 150 of the best rejection letters. I realized how daunting the book publishing process was.
So it came as part of a surprise when Lindsay A. Dierking, publisher and founder of The Awakened Press in Scottsdale, Arizona, inquired about Pantaleo’s dining experiences.
Going back a few chapters, Pantaleo had written children’s books, but at the same time jotted down funny stories of when she worked in the restaurant industry for a high-class establishment while taking classes at Temple University.
The money was good. The stories and interactions were even better.
“I was 19 and worked in a restaurant as a junior when I was at Temple University,” she said. “And I ended up staying there for 11 years. Most of the women I worked with there — same story. We all had professions during the day, but we all made so much money that we have held these jobs much longer than most restaurant jobs.
Pantaleo then met with a therapist during a retreat in Sedona, Arizona in March 2020. The therapist said she would refer Pantaleo to her goddaughter, Dierking. A few months later, the phone rang. Pantaleo sent his children’s book idea to Dierking but decided to include some restaurant chapters as well.
Dierking called and wanted more.
“I never thought of it as a book,” Pantaleo said. “What I realized was that I had my coming of age story in my hands. And all the crazy experiences at that restaurant that I witnessed there. I had all these thumbnails and about two-thirds of a book.
The name of the restaurant was changed in the book but the stories are real. Dierking pushed Pantaleo to dig deeper into his memory, and together the two women pieced together a 186-page book of humorous tales about work.
“It just worked. It was like the flow of the universe and everything fell into place and continues to fall into place with this book,” Pantaleo said. “It’s an incredible experience for me and sometimes I have to pinch myself. Not only is the book published, but the kind of enthusiasm I get. I am humble and exalted at the same time.
slept with dogs is described by The Awakened Press as “a humorous anecdote, quick-read novel for anyone who has spent time working in a restaurant, on the dating scene, or can enjoy the fun side of helping each other. It will make you laugh out loud and touch your heart as all the major themes unfold in this fictional story set in Philadelphia – beauty, money, sex, power, friendships and who uses whom. This little book of great characters is delivered by the narrator, Valerie, who gets a front-row seat to a racy, diametrical lifestyle that ends up changing his way of seeing the world.
Pantaleo, a St. Maria Goretti graduate who grew up near 10th and Tasker streets, has worked her whole life in marketing and communications while writing on the side.
slept with dogs has lived on notepads for about 12 years and will now appear in paperback in bookstores around the world and be published by 40,000 distributors worldwide. The book is available for pre-order on Amazon.com as an eBook and pocket book.
The first physical copy went to Pantaleo’s residence.
“When I got it, I held it for a few minutes and looked at it,” she said. “Like, wow, this is my book. I feel like I’ve gone through it electronically 10,000 times. But reading it and putting it in my hands was surreal. It was really, really cool.