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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. Oldsmar BMX Supercross track: It's a race to the finish

    Local Government


    It's down to the wire for the city. The public grand opening of the renovated BMX Supercross track, one of only a handful of Olympic-level tracks in the country, will be in less than a week, and city workers as well as community volunteers are rushing to complete the finishing touches.

    "We'll get it done," said Lynn Rives, Oldsmar's leisure services director. "We are devoting a lot of city staff to this."...

    The view from the top of the pro starting gate shows the BMX track in Oldsmar, which is nearing completion. “We’ll get it done,” said Lynn Rives, Oldsmar’s leisure services director. “We are devoting a lot of city staff to this.”
  2. Big names top Sunday's Hispanic Heritage Concert

    Human Interest


    It's a chance to brush off your dancing shoes, party with a steamy lineup of well-known Latino performers and help celebrate everything Latino. On Sunday, the city's annual Hispanic Heritage Concert, officially the Clearwater Fuccillo Kia Maxima Concierto de la Herencia Hispana, will be at Coachman Park. More than 13,000 visitors are expected to descend on the waterfront park, and already VIP tickets have sold out, according to Chrystal Ryals, a city recreation specialist helping coordinate the event....

    Grammy winner Olga Ta??n will headline Clearwater’s Hispanic Heritage Concert, officially Maxima Concierto de la Herencia Hispana.
  3. What's Jesse Goolsby reading?



    Jesse Goolsby

    In Goolsby's novel, I'd Walk With My Friends if I Could Find Them, the reader meets Wintric, Dax and Torres, all soldiers in Afghanistan. It's less a story about the battlefield and more a story about life before, during and after, away from it. Goolsby, 37, is an active duty Air Force officer and has worked at the Pentagon in the Office of Personnel and Readiness, advocating for wounded warrior care, sexual assault prevention and mental health care. The author lives in Tallahassee with his wife and three children and is currently working on his Ph.D. in creative writing at Florida State University. He will be a featured author at this year's Times Festival of Reading on Oct. 24 at USF St. Petersburg. ...

    Author and active duty Air Force officer Jesse Goolsby, who’s working on his Ph.D. in creative writing, will be a featured author at this year’s Times Festival of Reading.
  4. New street market to debut on Clearwater's waterfront


    CLEARWATER — She has visited the Chelsea Market in New York City, the Ferry Market in San Francisco and both the Portabello and the Borough markets in London, and now Natalie Nagengast is ready to bring the same type of big city success to Clearwater.

    On Oct. 10, under the shade of the Clearwater Memorial Causeway bridge near the Clearwater Harbor Marina, Nagengast, 27, will debut the Pierce Street Market....

    The organizer of Pierce Street Market expects to start with 45 to 60 vendors beneath the Memorial Causeway bridge. The market will be open the second Saturday of the month.
  5. What's Sterling Watson reading?



    Sterling Watson

    Along with writing seven novels, Watson, 68, co-founded the annual conference Writers in Paradise, with his former student Dennis Lehane at Eckerd College. Watson, who retired from his post as the director of the college's creative writing program about three years ago, also has served as fiction editor for Florida Quarterly as well as an instructor at Raiford Prison in Bradford County, where he taught secondary English and fiction writing. Currently he is part of the faculty for the Solstice Low-Residency MFA in Creative Writing Program at Pine Manor College in Massachusetts. On Oct. 24, Watson will be a featured author at the 23rd annual Tampa Bay Times Festival of Reading. He will discuss his newest work, Suitcase City, a noir revenge tale set in Tampa in the 1980s....

    Sterling Watson will discuss his newest work, “Suitcase City,” at the Tampa Bay Times Festival of Reading on Oct. 24.
  6. Habitat ReStore celebrates opening in Palm Harbor


    PALM HARBOR — Habitat for Humanity of Pinellas County is opening its second Habitat ReStore at 31541 U.S. 19 N. The store's offerings include donated furniture, kitchen cabinets, appliances, doors, windows, sinks, tubs and building materials.

    Proceeds at the new location and the other ReStore at 13355 49th St. N, Pinellas Park, will go toward the organization's affordable home building program. ...

  7. Oldsmar looks to allow more garage sales

    Local Government

    OLDSMAR — The City Council is considering doubling the number of garage sales a resident can have per year from two to four.

    Discussion of garage sales became part of the Sept. 15 City Council agenda at the urging of Loretta Wyandt, a former council member who is selling a home. She expressed concern at a meeting this month that the ordinance needed to be updated.

    "It was way back in the 1970s when (the ordinance) was done. There was a man who had a garage sale every day, and the neighbors went to City Council,'' Wyandt said....

  8. What's Gianmarc Manzione reading?



    Gianmarc Manzione

    Manzione spent much of his childhood in bowling alleys in Brooklyn, N.Y., and at one time he thought perhaps he'd make a career out of the sport. "Bowling was going to be what I'd do when I grew up,'' he said by phone recently. "But in high school, I fell in love with books. I had a very inspiring teacher who introduced me to Albert Camus, Ray Bradbury and others. It changed everything in my life.''...

    Gianmarc Manzione has written “Pin Action: Small-Time Gangsters, High-Stakes Gambling, and the Teenage Hustler Who Became a Bowling Champion.”
  9. Oldsmar passes budget

    Local Government


    City Council passes budget

    The City Council approved the final budget for the fiscal year 2015-16 on Tuesday. With the appropriations at $28 million, the budget will increase about 2.5 percent over this year. This includes a 1.8 percent increase for law enforcement services provided by the Pinellas Sheriff's Office.

    The new budget does not include continued funding for Oldsmar's red light camera program, run by American Traffic Solution. ATS is involved in a class action lawsuit in South Florida in which several Floridians, including some from Pinellas County, are seeking damages for the way red light camera fines are collected. ...

  10. Lesson in invasive species at Brooker Creek helps with battle with "aliens''



    Brooker Creek Preserve, with its 8,700 acres, serves as both an oasis for dozens of Florida's native species and an outdoor classroom. Almost every weekend, the public can join a nature walk or attend talks on birds or other critters.

    This weekend is no exception. On Sept. 19, along with a monthly nature hike ("Footprints on the Land" at 9 a.m.), the UF/IFAS Pinellas County Extension will hold an "Invasive Plants Are Invading My Yard!" workshop about species that are harmful to native vegetation. Lara Miller, the extension's natural resources agent based at Brooker Creek, will teach participants how to identify and rid them from the landscape. She hopes it will become a regular feature....

    Caesar weed is one of the invasives that Lara Miller will talk about at Brooker Creek Nature Preserve.
  11. What's Michael Lister reading?



    Michael Lister

    The Big Bout takes the reader back to World War II Panama City, where Fighting Freddy Freeman's life has been threatened on the eve of a pivotal boxing match that could lead to a fight with heavyweight champ Joe Lewis. Jimmy "Soldier'' Riley is on the case. This novel is the newest of Lister's noir series featuring private detective Riley. Lister, recipient of a 2012 Florida Book award, is a former prison chaplain also known for his John Jordan Blood mystery series. Lister, 47, caught up with us by phone from his home in Panama City. He will be a featured author at this year's Festival of Reading....

    Florida author Michael Lister will be a featured author at this year’s Times Festival of Reading.
  12. Largo eXceptional presents The Boys Next Door

    Human Interest


    A person's first reaction could be to turn away from someone with a mental disability. Perhaps coming face-to-face with a grown-up who talks like a kindergartner is too much to bear, or maybe conversing with a schizophrenic in the middle of a rant is not especially in one's comfort zone.

    The people behind Theatre eXceptional, an organization set up to use the performing arts to support adults with mental disabilities, want to help you with that....

    A 1950's stiff taffeta wedding gown on display in the Historic Andrews Chapel Victorian Bridal Show featuring vintage wedding gowns and accouterments from the 1800's to the 1970's, and is open from 2-4pm Wednesdays through Sundays. The show will run through Sept. 17th. The Andrews Memorial Chapel is at 1899 San Mateo Drive Dunedin.
  13. What's Michael Koryta reading?



    Michael Koryta

    Koryta's resume includes work as both a private investigator and a reporter. However, he's best known for his work as a crime novelist, for thrillers including Those Who Wish Me Dead, The Prophet and The Ridge. His newest, Last Words, centers around protagonist Markus Novak, an investigator for a Florida-based pro-bono legal firm. Grieving the loss of his murdered wife, Novak continues to work. He takes on a 10-year-old cold case that leads him to southern Indiana and into some eerie places, away from the light of day. We caught up with the author by phone from his home in Bloomington, Ind. Koryta, 33, will be a featured author at this year's Tampa Bay Times Festival of Reading on Oct. 24 at the University of South Florida St. Petersburg....

    The latest work by Michael Koryta, who will be a featured author at the Tampa Bay Times Festival of Reading on Oct. 24, is Last Words.
  14. At 88, water aerobics instructor helps other seniors stay fit and healthy

    Human Interest


    As storm clouds gathered above, Jay Elliott and 10 of her faithful made their way into the Morningside Pool for their Friday morning workout. It was time for Aqua SMILE, a water fitness class made up of women between the ages of 55 and 89.

    They stood no more than shoulder-high in water. "Okay, let's start with stretches. Push your hands up to the sky. Tell the rain to stay away,'' said Elliott, 88....

    Jay Elliott, right, said she learned to teach water aerobics from Marilyn “Micki” Nault, creator of the Aquaslim workout. Four years ago, Elliott was diagnosed with breast cancer. As soon as the doctor gave her the okay, she got back in the pool to teach.
  15. What's Garth Stein reading?



    Garth Stein

    Stein, 50, is best known for his 2008 novel The Art of Racing in the Rain, a story told through the eyes of a canine narrator, Enzo, who yearns to be a human race car driver. The novel spent more than three years on the New York Times bestseller list. Stein is also the author of A Sudden Light, a story set in the Pacific Northwest on Puget Sound, not far from Seattle, where he spent most of his childhood. The book, which will be released in paperback on Tuesday, is a coming-of-age story that pits a man and his yearning for wealth against nature and its resources. This time, instead of a dog, Stein relies on ghosts inside an old mansion to weave his tale. When we caught up with the author by phone recently, he talked about books, the craft of writing and even his fictional spooky domicile, known as the Riddle House. "There came a point for the story that I realized that I needed to have the generations of the family connect over time, in a timeless fashion, and the best way was through spirits, and thus the house becomes the cradle of all the generations of the family.'' ...

    Garth Stein, 50, is best known for his 2008 novel The Art of Racing in the Rain.