Neighbors in the news: ECC English professor wins Book of the Year for Indie Fiction

• The Chicago Writers Association has honored Christina Marrocco, an associate professor of English at Elgin Community College, with its 2022 Book of the Year Award for Indie Fiction.

Marrocco's novel, titled "Addio, Love Monster," tells a series of linked stories spanning generations on the regular - yet remarkable - Singer Street of fictional midcentury Mulberry Park, just outside of Chicago.

Marrocco became a member of the Chicago Writers Association after hearing about it from a friend and fellow writer around the same time she submitted her novel to the contest.

"When I received the email that I had won, I was at home, and I screamed; scared my dogs and my husband," said Marrocco. "The award and book have been a source of joy for me this year. To create, in any medium, and to have worked that piece until it really becomes itself fosters lots of good feelings."

The Chicago Writers Association is a creative community of Chicago area writers established in 2003. Its purpose is to share information, experiences and encouragement with other writers.

Bella Jansen, Miss Lake County Fair Queen 2022, competed in the 2023 Miss Illinois County Fair Queen Pageant. Courtesy of Matty Jacobsen, Magic Dreams Productions

2022 Miss Lake County Fair Queen Bella Jansen, 19, of Gurnee represented the Lake County Fair at the 2023 Miss Illinois County Fair Queen Pageant, held during the annual Illinois Association of Agricultural Fairs convention Jan. 19-22 in Springfield. She was one of 73 county fair queens from across the state who competed for the title.

Jansen is a sophomore marketing major at Hope College in Holland, Michigan. She is minoring in leadership and communication with plans to obtain a master's degree in business administration. Her plains for the future are to pursue a career overseas as a marketing director for a nonprofit organization.

Chris Ellsworth, vice president, acquisitions, Pine Tree Courtesy of Pine Tree

Chris Ellsworth was promoted to vice president of acquisitions at Northbrook-based Pine Tree, a full-service real estate company specializing in retail.

Ellsworth, a Pine Tree team member since 2021, will continue to help source and negotiate new potential acquisitions and grow the company's national retail portfolio.

"Chris has an in-depth knowledge of the retail real estate business, which he combines with an incredibly dedicated work ethic," said Conor Bossy, chief investment officer at Pine Tree.

Ellsworth is an alumnus of Indiana University, Bloomington, and an active member of the International Council of Shopping Centers.

• Attorneys Joe Vito and Nick Dollenmaier have announced the opening of their new law firm, Vito & Dollenmaier Law. The Rolling Meadows-based personal injury law firm will focus the scope of its practice primarily on motor vehicle accidents, premises liability and wrongful death cases.

The law firm offers comprehensive legal services to those who have been injured at all stages of their claim, from accident investigation to trial advocacy.

Attorneys Vito and Dollenmaier previously created and managed a personal injury practice group at another local law firm before making the decision to begin their own firm.

Vito began his legal career defending insurance companies at several larger downtown Chicago firms and even worked in-house for a major national insurance company. He has been in practice for nearly 20 years and has earned recognition as a Super Lawyer since 2020.

Dollenmaier is an experienced trial attorney, and he has spent his career focusing on personal injury cases. He has achieved recognition for his skill in handling personal injury cases, and will continue to advocate for each of his clients.

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