Menlo Park authors

Mid-Peninsula High School sophomore Collette Zubizaretta always wanted to become an author. After publishing her first collection of short stories, A Little Bit Creative, she made her dream come true.

Collette, who goes by CoCo at school, first began noodling the idea of writing a book in middle school when she embarked on a project with her friends. After they graduated from eighth grade, the book stalled.

Coco’s dream to publish a book didn’t leave her, though. As is the tale of many writers, however, she’d start a story and find herself with the proverbial writer’s block. That is until her sophomore year when she landed in an English class taught by Cory Huttenga. Cory asks his student to take five minutes of each class to freewrite, which is a writing exercise used to generate ideas without restrictions.

“I don’t provide extensive feedback on student journals,” said Cory. “I grade them exclusively on effort and encourage students to experiment as much as possible, so most of my feedback is motivational…When I created the activity, I imagined that some students might be inspired to turn something they wrote for class into a bigger project like a short story, a novel, or a screenplay,” said Cory. “To see Coco’s book on Amazon is obviously very cool!”

Coco chose the stories and poems from her freewrites in Cory’s class and continued developing those works at home. Her grandmother, author Alma Flor Ada, asked Coco if she would co-write a book with her. When Coco showed Alma her works in progress, A Little Bit Creative was born. Collette’s mom, Hannah Brooks, designed the cover art, which adds to the specialness of this collaborative effort.

With her grandmother’s help, Coco’s book was self-published on Amazon in early March. Her grandmother called her with the news: “Congratulations you are officially a published author. Go check it out on Amazon!” When Coco found her book listed, she said it felt like a dream.

“It didn’t feel real at all. It felt like I was going to wake up and it’d be gone.”

But her book is very real. Her stories in the collection are presented in English and Spanish. The translations, which were done by her grandmother, are lyrical and flow as if they were written specifically for the language.

“I would describe Coco’s writing style as delicate,” said Cory. “Her prose often reads as if she carefully knitted each word onto the page and her simple yet varied sentence structures create a soothing rhythm.”

Coco is working on a new project with a grade-school friend; the two will use a single pen name when it’s published.



Lauren Goodkind’s new book offers girls a path to chess mastery

Menlo Park resident Lauren Goodkind, who we first profiled in 2015, has written a new book about chess, Queen for a Day: The Girl’s Guide to Chess Mastery, that’s a particularly good fit for these days of sheltering in. Edited by Woman International Master Alexey Root, who is a former US Women’s Chess Champion, the book […]

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“A Biscuit For Chocolate” is first children’s book from Nancy Tomkins

Menlo Park resident Nancy Tomkins (pictured left) has been in the “content business” for years, working mainly for technology companies. A poetry class at Stanford inspired her to write her first children’s book, A Biscuit for Chocolate. “I have wanted to write a children’s book for a long time,” said Nancy. “Biscuit is told in […]

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Consultant Dan Olsen shares what he’s learned in the Lean Product Playbook

Menlo Park resident Dan Olsen started coding on a Commodore 64 as a teen, but it wasn’t until he landed at Stanford Business School that he discovered there’s a career field called product management. “It fit me because it’s at the intersection of technology and marketing,” he said. “Then I got lucky enough to get […]

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Local writer Rebecca Bloom co-authors “The Anti-Cook Book”

Menlo Park resident Rebecca Bloom is a lawyer turned writer. Her writing “partner-in-crime” and one-time college roommate, Shelly Onderdonk, is a veterinarian. It’s natural that the two, neither chef nor food critic, would combine for a new book, The Anti-Cook Book. And not to be mis-understood: They are not against cooks, meaning the people who […]

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Maggie King’s debut novel looks at the consequences of China’s One Child Policy

Menlo Park resident Maggie Shen King‘s second go at writing a novel shows perseverance pays off. Not only was An Excess Male picked up by Harper Voyager, but it’s gotten noticed. The Washington Post selected it as one of the five best science fiction and fantasy novels of 2017, applauding Maggie for “distinctive and sympathetic […]

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Local author Constance Vincent explores karma in latest book

Karma is not a religious term. And it is not a judgment from a past life. Karma really means “a call to action,” appropriate as one starts thinking of New Year’s resolutions. In her latest book Karma in Action, psychologist and author Constance L. Vincent, a Menlo Park resident, has written the only book that […]

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Author Donia Bijan is featured at First Friday event on Sept. 1

Author and Menlo Park resident Donia Bijan will appear at the next First Friday on September 1st at Woodside’s Town Hall (2955 Woodside Road). Donia’s latest book is The Last Days at Cafe Leila. Elizabeth Church writes: “The Last Days at Café Leila is a novel that will engage all of your senses and then make […]

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Hometown author Barry Eisler launches new John Rain thriller at Kepler’s

Menlo Park author Barry Eisler emailed: ” My new John Rain novel — Zero Sum — is out today! This is another prequel, again set in Tokyo ten years following the events of Graveyard of Memories: “Returning to Tokyo in 1982 after a decade of mercenary work in the Philippines, a young John Rain learns that the […]

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Spotted: Author Donia Bijan at Kepler’s celebrating book launch with her family

We admit to loving this photo of author Donia Bijan celebrating the publication of her first novel with husband Mitchell Johnson and son Luca at Kepler’s last night. What a happy looking family! All the copies of The Last Days of Café Leila got snapped up, but Kepler’s has more on order. Earlier this week, we ran our […]

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Ken Rutsky brings a new perspective to B2B marketing in book, Launching to Leading

Menlo Park resident Ken Rutsky says he’s always wanted to write a book. He’s just surprised that his first book, Launching to Leading, is non-fiction rather than a novel. “I’ve always enjoyed writing,” says the long-time corporate B2B marketeer who now has his own consulting practice. “There’s something satisfying about writing what you’ve been thinking about and […]

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