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Piper Castillo, Times Staff Writer

Piper Castillo

Piper Castillo grew up in Ft. Lauderdale and received her English degree from Florida Atlantic University. As a community news reporter for the Tampa Bay Times, she covers Oldsmar and Palm Harbor. She also writes the "Nightstand" column for the Sunday book pages and thinks the only thing better than a good read is a day in the sun with her family.

Phone: (727) 445-4163


  1. What's Marie Bostwick reading?



    Marie Bostwick

    We caught up with Bostwick, best known for her Cobbled Court Quilts series, by phone as she vacationed at Disney World with her husband, children and grandchildren. Bostwick is making a stop in Dunedin on Tuesday (see Book Talk) as part of the launch of her newest release, The Second Sister. The book features Lucy Toomey, a high-energy protagonist living in Washington, D.C. When her sister dies, Lucy returns to her Wisconsin hometown, where she is forced to confront a difficult past while honoring her dead sibling's wishes....

    Marie Bostwick’s newest release is The Second Sister.
  2. New Century Opera presents 'Tales of Hoffmann' in Tarpon Springs


    TARPON SPRINGS — A mechanical doll, a cursed, young beauty and a courtesan. In each female, the man hopes he has found the perfect love, but instead, each brings him heartbreak.

    Through March 29, the New Century Opera is presenting Tales of Hoffmann at the Tarpon Springs Performing Arts Center. The opera was created by 19th-century French composer Jacques Offenbach, and the libretto is based on three short stories by E.T.A. Hoffmann, a German fantasy writer and composer who died in 1822. Hoffmann is also the protagonist in the opera....

    Olympia, left, a mechanical doll played by Mary Anne Boone, is wound up by her father, Spalanzani, played by Matthew Ruley.
  3. What's Piper Kerman reading?



    Piper Kerman

    We caught up with Kerman, the author of Orange Is the New Black, the bestselling memoir that inspired an award-winning Netflix series, by phone a few days before her appearance at Eckerd College, where she drew a crowd of 1,500. Starting in 2004, Kerman served 13 months in a federal women's prison after pleading guilty to laundering money, and from that experience she has become a leading advocate for prison reform, particularly for women. One memory from her time in prison has been impossible to shake, she told us. "Anytime I think of the (prison) visiting room and seeing the moms with kids, especially very young ones, that is a really indelible image that I can't ever forget,'' she said....

    Piper Kerman is the bestselling author of the memoir Orange Is the New Black.
  4. Clearwater resident still going strong at 105

    Human Interest

    CLEARWATER — Eleanor Gilbert Keck, born in 1910, was a frail youngster.

    "She was weak, fainted a lot and that sort of thing," said her daughter, Marcia Bartholomew. "The doctors told her mother and father that they shouldn't expect her to live past the age of 7.''

    Considering that the diagnosis was made more than 100 years ago, it's safe to say the doctors were wrong. Eleanor, who lives in the memory care community at Brookdale Countryside, turned 105 on March 4....

    Eleanor Gilbert Keck turned 105 on March 4 at Brookdale Countryside.
  5. 'The Addams Family' visits Largo Cultural Center



    The vibes coming from the Largo Cultural Center are creepy, kooky, mysterious and spooky as Eight O'Clock Theatre presents The Addams Family: The Musical.

    The show, running through March 22, is based on the 1960s TV series, which sprung from the cartoons created by Charles Addams.

    Written by Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice with music and lyrics by Andrew Lippa, the story focuses on a romance between Wednesday Addams (Michelle Helmus), a chic but ghoulish young woman, and Lucas (Jeremy Moranski), who could be described as a normal 18-year-old American male....

    Lucas Beineke and Wednesday Addams, played by Jeremy Moranski and Michelle Helmus, discuss their future in rehearsal for Eight O’Clock Theatre’s production of The Addams Family: The Musical at the Largo Cultural Center.
  6. What's Janis Ian reading?



    Janis Ian

    As a youngster in New Jersey, Janis Eddy Fink was a wunderkind. She began playing the piano at the age of 2. In elementary school, she learned the organ, the harpsichord, the flute and the guitar. At 13, right after she changed her name to Janis Ian, she had her first hit single as a singer-songwriter with Society's Child. Controversial at the time, the song became an anthem for interracial romance. In 1975, Ian's career would be catapulted into the stratosphere with the release of At Seventeen, another anthem, this one for insecure teenage girls across the country....

    In 2013, Janis Ian won a Grammy for Best Spoken Word Album for Society’s Child.
  7. What's Stephen Spotte reading?



    Stephen Spotte

    Spotte, a renowned marine biologist who has helped lead aquariums and research facilities from New York to the Bering Sea to the Amazon basin of Ecuador and Brazil, has a new memoir, My Watery Self, that, of course, highlights life underwater. However, it's filled with surprises, too: an underwater acid trip and an after-dark stroll through Coney Island in a wet suit, as well as power-punched lines like, "The sky was the color of a corpse, the weakened sun inked on it like a bad tattoo.'' Spotte, who was born in West Virginia and received his Ph.D. from the University of Southern Mississippi, is the author of 18 books, including three volumes of fiction, more than 80 scientific papers and articles that have appeared in National Wildlife, Science Digest and Animal Kingdom. On Thursday, he will present a program at Mote Marine Laboratory where he serves as an adjunct scientist. (See Book Talk.)...

    Stephen Spotte’s new memoir is titled My Watery Self.
  8. 'Orange is New Black' author to talk prison reform, Netflix show at Eckerd Thursday


    Piper Kerman's 2010 memoir, Orange Is the New Black, became a bestseller and then an award-winning Netflix series. (Netflix announced on Monday that the third season will be released June 12.)

    Kerman could have just cashed the checks, but instead she has taken up the cause of prison reform, testifying before the U.S. Senate on solitary confinement of women prisoners and lecturing at venues around the country. On Thursday night she'll speak at Eckerd College as part of its Presidential Events series. The free event is open to the public....

    Piper Kerman, author of Orange Is the New Black, is an advocate for prison reform and is vice president for the Women’s Prison Association based in New York.
  9. Three Oldsmar candidates agree on downtown project as a priority

    Local Government

    OLDSMAR — The three candidates running for City Council in the March 10 election seem to agree that a main concern is Market Square, the city's downtown redevelopment project along State Street.

    The candidates include Eric Seidel, 51, co-owner of Web-Est, a software company, who served on the council in the mid-2000s; John Mastromarchi, 69, a retired builder and grandfather; and Dan Belcher, 41, president of Premier Wealth Care Group of Clearwater who says his decision to run came about from his two young sons' participation in youth sports at Canal Park....

    Eric Seidel
  10. What's Melissa Cutlip reading?



    Melissa Cutlip

    Cutlip, owner of Violet Media in Chicago, earned her master's degree in journalism from the University of Michigan in 1995. She did not plan on becoming a TV producer for reality shows (or "nonfiction television,'' as she describes it), but in the last six years she has found great success with My Strange Addiction, which airs on TLC. "When I was in college, nonfiction TV shows did not exist like they do today. Survivor was the first of its kind,'' she said. Her newest endeavor is My City's Just Not That Into Me, which will premiere on FYI, a division of A&E Network, on Wednesday. It features people who love the community they live in but are priced out of home ownership; the show helps them discover a new city. One episode will feature Tampa as a go-to city. (The air date was not announced by press time.) We caught up with Cutlip as she prepared for a trip to St. Petersburg to visit students at Admiral Farragut Academy to talk about her work. "Many people think it's a lot easier than it is,'' said Cutlip, 44. "Even though it's a difficult industry, I still encourage young people to go into it.''...

    Melissa Cutlip is the owner of Violet Media in Chicago and is a TV producer for reality shows such as TLC’s “My Strange Addiction.” Her newest endeavor is “My City’s Just Not That Into Me,” which will air on FYI, a division of A&E Network.
  11. Old borrow pits might become a new park in Oldsmar

    Local Government

    OLDSMAR — Out of destruction has come a rebirth.

    In the 1990s, borrow pits — two holes, each about 50-feet deep — were created as builders needed dirt for developments in the northeast pocket of Pinellas County. After the last load of dirt was taken out about 12 years ago, the giant holes began filling with water, becoming two fresh water lakes. Eventually, wildlife returned too....

    Oldsmar City Council member Jerry Beverland holds a handful of apple snail shells found during the tour this month.
  12. What's Robert Vera reading?



    Robert Vera

    It's Oscar Sunday, and we'll soon learn which movie wins best picture. Among those nominated is Clint Eastwood's American Sniper, based on the life of Navy SEAL Chris Kyle. In March, Thomas Nelson/HarperCollins will release A Warrior's Faith by Robert Vera. It is a memoir about Vera's relationship with Navy SEAL Ryan "Biggles'' Job, a central character in the movie. Job was shot in the face on a rooftop in Ramadi, Iraq, and permanently blinded....

    Robert Vera has written a book about Navy SEAL Ryan “Biggles” Job, a central character in American Sniper and a friend. A Warrior’s Faith comes out in March.
  13. Epilogue: Former Indian Shores Mayor Janet Hoppe was passionate about politics and her beach


    INDIAN SHORES — She witnessed Indian Shores transform from a gulfside town dotted with cottages and mom-and-pop motels to a renowned destination with million-dollar homes and luxury condominiums.

    However, former Mayor Janet Hoppe, who died on Feb. 3 at the age of 84, never let go of her life's passion — ensuring the small-town charm she discovered on Indian Shores in her youth never disappeared entirely....

     Hoppe Janet Indian Shores, 01/23/1992
  14. What's Barbara Shoup reading?



    Barbara Shoup

    The original idea for Shoup's new YA novel, Looking for Jack Kerouac, came from a fellow writer and friend. When he decided he was not going to follow through with his story, he called Shoup, the executive director of the Indiana Writers Center, and told her she could go for it. But it wasn't until after she suffered the loss of her sister from cancer and saw her teenage nephews grieve that she went forward with the story, which concerns teens who head to St. Petersburg on a trip that includes a search for the leader of the Beat Generation as well as for some of life's answers. "For me, when I'm writing fiction, there's always something underneath. There's always something in it that I'm looking at sideways, and in this case it was me wondering how they could get over something like (the death of a mother)," said Shoup, 67....

    Barbara Shoup, author of Looking for Jack Kerouac, will hold a book talk and signing Thursday at the University of South Florida in Tampa.
  15. Longtime Oldsmar mayor and council member Jerry Beverland ready to retire


    OLDSMAR — Jerry Beverland refuses to say the word never. Since 1970, he has returned again and again to public office in Oldsmar. While taking time out for term limits, he has served a total of 10 years as mayor, three as vice mayor and 12 as a City Council member.

    When his last stint as mayor came to an end in 2007, Beverland did say he was leaving for good. Dubbed the unofficial historian of Oldsmar, he had books to write. He wrote them. He was bored. His wife told him to go back to the city he loved....

    Jerry Beverland is the unofficial historian of Oldsmar.