Two years ago, Sarah Mondello stood on the Woodstock Opera House stage and read an excerpt from a literary work she penned for a classroom assignment that earned her a scholarship from the Woodstock Fine Arts Association.

At noon Saturday, July 23, she will return to Woodstock to read excerpts of the same story – now a published book – and discuss how she navigated the path to publication. 

The presentation will take place at Read Between the Lynes, 111 E. Van Buren St.

The project was originally a classroom assignment for her senior creative writing class at Crystal Lake Central High School. The rubric called for a seven- to 10-page historical fiction piece, but Mondello went above and beyond, writing a 41-page story.

“I was having so much fun with it. I was writing for myself,” she said.

Considerable research was required for the story about a struggle for survival during an outbreak of the bubonic plague set in 14th century London. 

Her instructor, Jerry Thiel, recognized the effort that went into the assignment and the quality of the finished product, and he submitted it for consideration for a Woodstock Fine Arts Association scholarship. Mondello was chosen as a recipient of a 2014 Helen Wright scholarship in creative writing. She was invited to a showcase of WFAA scholarship winners at the Opera House where she read an excerpt of the story.

“During the reception [following the reading] people were clamoring for more,” said Mondello. “I jokingly said you’ll have to wait until it is a published book.”

She spent the summer before college submitting her manuscript to publishers to no avail, but a query sent out over winter break resulted in a publishing contract from Kellan Publishing on Christmas Eve. “The Kiss of Death” was released in June 2015 under her pen name, Sarah Natale.

“It’s been a whirlwind experience. I’m thankful to all who have helped me on my journey,” said Mondello.

Mondello, 20, is pursuing a double major in creative writing and public relations, with a minor in graphic design at Drake University, Des Moines. She’s using one of her college writing classes as the opportunity to work on a sequel to be titled “The Kiss of Life.”

Signed copies of “The Kiss of Death” will be available at Read Between the Lynes during the presentation July 23. Information and a link to the book trailer is available at

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