My 2017 Year in Review

It’s that time of year again – no, I don’t mean back-to-school (though that’s a valid point). It’s time to reflect on last year’s adventures and plan for the coming year! Here are some of my highlights:

Notable Reads:

This hilarious women’s fiction series follows recent Fashion History graduate Lizzie Nichols (after receiving flak for not choosing a more marketable major) as she navigates the “real world,” building a career and searching for The One. As she struggles to make a name for herself in wedding gown restoration in the Big Apple, a niche profession for which she has a rare gift – not to mention possibly tying the knot – her big mouth often does more harm than good. I especially loved how each book was peppered with “Lizzie lists”: history and tips about fashion and weddings, from Lizzie herself. Told with humor and heart, this series came at perfect timing, as I am approaching a similar life stage.

Author Updates:

 Debut Returns to Birthplace

Author Sarah Natale Mondello with Crystal Lake Central (CLC) High School Library's copy of The Kiss of Death

The library was so kind as to arrange a display with my first news coverage from the Northwest Herald!

A visit to my alma mater Crystal Lake Central High School kicked off the year, where I left my Jane Hancock on their copy of my debut book, medieval historical/literary fiction The Kiss of Death (Kellan Publishing, 2015). As a student, I spent many hours at the library, especially when researching for The Kiss of Death. The librarians were so helpful in recommending sources on the bubonic plague. What a pleasure to dedicate the library’s copy of my first book to the school where it was born!

Speaking Engagements

Author Sarah Natale (Mondello)'s Presentation for Belinda Strebel's 7th Grade Class at Bernotas Middle School 003

Belinda Strebel’s 7th grade class at Bernotas

This year’s venues included two memorable firsts: a school and a book club. (View my full list of events here.)

At Bernotas Middle School (Crystal Lake, IL), Belinda Strebel welcomed me into her classroom of 7th graders, a lively group who made my first classroom presentation a truly remarkable experience. It means the world to me to be able to inspire a love for writing and history in students the way other authors have done for me. Especially when we’re really close in age!

Author Sarah Natale (Mondello)'s Presentation at Second Thursday Book Review Club 003

The Second Thursday Book Review Club of Crystal Lake

This year also marked my first book club presentation. The Second Thursday Book Review Club, a women’s book club in Crystal Lake, IL, kindly invited me as a guest speaker. 20+ women and I cozied up in the living room of a lovely home. Plus, I got to join them for lunch! I had a wonderful time getting to know them. The encouragement they gave me as a young author was truly inspiring.

Website Update

I’ve revamped my website, and it’s all new and shiny – take a look! Given The Kiss of Death’s classroom connection, I’ve added an Education tab, equipped with everything an Educator might need:

  • Scheduling speaking educator-guide-for-the-kiss-of-death-by-sarah-natale-p-1-150ppi-w-border6events
  • Testimonials about my presentation
  • Educational supplement for The Kiss of Death (Yes, my Educator Guide is now viewable online! One of my goals this year was better accessibility; however, I can still provide a printed booklet copy upon request.)

How did a college student create a lesson plan correlated to Common Core Curriculum for four different subjects for an entire book, you ask? Go behind-the-scenes in the making of my Educator Guide to find out!

I’ve also added a testimonial section to my Events page. This section includes testimonials from all my speaking events, in addition to schools.

Cinematic/Digital Milestones

My first book trailer reached 1,000 YouTube views this year, thanks to all of YOU. I’m truly blessed for your continued support watching and sharing with fellow book lovers. You guys rock!

I also launched my first Goodreads Giveaway for The Kiss of Death. It’s still running – you can enter by March 12, 2018 for your chance to win an autographed copy!


This year was HUGE in publicity as a young local author. I received my first magazine coverage – an article in conjunction with a book review in the May Arts & Entertainment issue of McHenry County Magazine. Ahhh! It still doesn’t feel real! The reviewer called my debut “a well-researched glimpse into life in Italy [and London] at the start of the Black Death.” You can view the virtual edition here (article on page 12, book review on page 60).

McHenry County Magazine Cover (May 2017)

Look closely – I’m mentioned on the cover of McHenry County Magazine!

Academic Milestones:

Creative Flash Nonfiction

Completing my Writing degree at Drake this year was bittersweet, but I got to go out in style! My final course, Creative Flash Nonfiction, provided great practice writing super short “flash” essays (750 words or less) and workshopping with peers. With a focus on submitting our work for publication to literary journals, the class culminated with each student producing a Final Collection, or book of thematically-connected essays – in other words, a useful portfolio piece. I couldn’t think of a more perfect class to complete my Writing major!

Public Relations Mini-Capstone

The Avenues PR Plan by Crossroads PR Agency p.1 (150ppi, border6)

PR Plan for The Avenues of Ingersoll and Grand

In a Public Relations (PR) Planning & Management course at Drake, my team and I gained hands-on experience creating and presenting a PR plan for our client, The Avenues of Ingersoll and Grand. One of my contributions involved designing our plan’s layout, which was great practice in visually conveying a message. This “mini” Capstone (a Capstone course completes a major at Drake University) was great preparation for the work I’ll be doing next semester in full Capstone.

Public Relations Capstone

With the first half of the year-long PR Capstone under my belt – the research portion – my team and I will go full-speed ahead producing an in-depth PR plan for our client, Creative Visions, this spring. The course will complete my time at Drake. Look out, graduation!

Professional Developments:

Book Publicity Intern

I had the exciting opportunity to intern for digital media pro Dana Kaye at Chicago book publicity agency Kaye Publicity this past summer. From creating social media content and press kits to researching and pitching social influencers, I gained real-world experience promoting her clients’ books.

Nonfiction Book Launch

Sof_Cover (with border 5)

In my second year interning for Drake Community Press (DCP), I participated in the release of their latest book, A Spectrum of Faith: Religions of the World in America’s Heartland. This was my second book launch! (Learn about my first.)

It’s been rewarding to watch the book come together over the past two years and contribute to every stage of the process: writing weekly reader reports to researchers/writers, editing chapters, and designing bookmarks and programs for the book launch event.

To kick off the launch, our talented videographer, Anna Steenson, created this breathtaking behind-the-scenes documentary about the making of the book. (Check out time stamps 7:15 and 9:15 for my personal perspective of the publishing process.)

International Award

Sarah Mondello - Honorable Mention for 2017 PR Intern of the Year by PR News 001

Receiving award at PR People Awards Ceremony

Given my instrumental role at DCP, PR News awarded me Honorable Mention for 2017 PR Intern of the Year. This past December, I received the international award at the PR People Awards Luncheon at the National Press Club in Washington D.C. What better way to close out 2017!?!

Local Scholarship

I received a second PR honor, the Ferne Bonomi and Dr. Henry Milam Scholarship. It was awarded by the Central Iowa chapter of the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) during their November Luncheon due to outstanding achievement and commitment to the PR profession.

What’s Next

Just like our friend Lizzie Nichols, I’m preparing to graduate and enter the workforce this coming May. That means lots of job applications (and excel spreadsheets – don’t know what I’d do without them). Here’s to my future as a book publishing professional! (And writing more books, of course.)

Thanks for following along on this year’s adventures! For last year’s, check out My 2016 Year in Review. It’s full-speed ahead to graduation now. The dominoes have been set in motion, and I’m excited to see what 2018 has in store!

~ Sarah

Purchase your copy of The Kiss of Death through Kellan Publishing, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or Kobo.


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