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

E-mail: pcastillo@tampabay.com

  1. Cheeseheads keep business booming at Culver's burger chain in Largo


    LARGO — Parrish Sandefur admitted he worried about the success of his restaurant before it opened. Not too long ago, he and his wife, Alicia Sandefur, opened up the first Culver's in Tampa Bay on East Bay Drive. Although the quick service restaurant was a go-to eatery for him and his family for years back in Wisconsin, he wasn't sure if people in Florida would recognize the chain.

    "Culver's is really well-known in the Midwest, but when we first moved here, I was just meeting people who were from, well, Florida,'' he said....

    Jordan Krolak, left, and Melanie Skinner hustle an order out to customers.
  2. Dia de los Muertos Fiesta brings Mexico's traditions to Dunedin



    The city is noted for its Scottish heritage, however, on Saturday, Dunedin's Celtic roots will take a backseat to the community's growing Latin community. For the sixth year in a row, downtown restaurateurs Javier and Tina Avila are holding their Dia de los Muertos Fiesta in Pioneer Park. Dia de los Muertos is Spanish for Day of the Dead. • Although the event is planned close to Halloween, don't think the celebration, which will cost the Avilas $10,000, is about goblins, black cats and zombies....

    Tina Avila arranges her altar (ofrenda) for the Dia de los Muertos celebration. More than a dozen downtown merchants will display colorful altars through Nov. 2.
  3. What's Rick Yancey reading?



    Rick Yancey

    Yancey is a busy guy this fall, dividing time between Atlanta, where his YA novel, The 5th Wave, is being adapted into a movie for Sony Pictures (starring Chloe Grace Moretz), and author events promoting The Infinite Sea, which was released in September and is the second book of the 5th Wave trilogy. We recently spoke by phone to Yancey, a former IRS officer, who described the experience of seeing his novel turned into a major motion picture as "cool and surreal.''...

    Rick Yancey’s most recent release is The Infinite Sea. His YA novel, The 5th Wave, is being made into a movie.
  4. What's Sara Pennypacker reading?


    Sara Pennypacker

    Pennypacker, 63, is widely known by both children and their parents for her Clementine series and the freckle-faced protagonist whose good intentions always take a backseat to getting into trouble. Pennypacker is also the author of Summer of the Gypsy Moths, Pierre in Love, Sparrow Girl and Stuart Goes to School, as well as a contributor to the Flat Stanley series. Pennypacker divides her time between Massachusetts and Florida. She will speak at 10:15 a.m. Saturday (Oct. 25) in USF FPRW 118....

    Sara Pennypacker, the author behind the Clementine series, will speak Saturday (Oct. 25) at the annual Tampa Bay Times Festival of Reading.
  5. Beekeeping is on the rise in Pinellas County (w/video)



    Rebecca Conroy, dressed in long sleeves and a veiled hat, worked inside her apiary at the Ochs 4-H Educational Center. Three days had passed since she discovered two of her 21 hives suffered severe damage from what she suspected was pesticide poisoning. She was ready to see if any other hives were hurt, and if at least the queens from the damaged hives had survived.

    She began to pull up frames, the dividers that hold the honeycombs, turning them from one side to the other....

    Rebecca Conroy of St. Petersburg searches for the queen on one of the frames from a brood chamber. She is the director of Pinellas Beekeepers, a group that meets monthly.
  6. Two events to show off Brooker Creek Preserve's natural beauty


    Fall is a busy time for Brooker Creek Preserve. Permanent residents such as gopher tortoises, wild turkeys and deer find themselves sharing space with migratory visitors, including sand hill cranes and hooded warblers.

    For the next two weeks, the preserve will have even more visitors — humans. The Paint and Photo Brooker Creek Preserve, a plein aire competition sponsored by the Tarpon Springs Art Association and the Friends of Brooker Creek Preserve, will be this weekend. Plein aire is French for "open air," and painters and photographers will hike much of the preserve of oak hammocks, pine flatwoods and forested wetlands, seeking to capture the perfect moment....

    A panoramic view of Brooker Creek. The Brooker Creek Preserve will hold two events, one of which is a wildflower festival that will include lectures on landscaping, edible plants and photography.
  7. What's Suzanne Brockmann reading?



    Suzanne Brockmann

    Brockmann, 54, will be a busy woman on Oct. 25 at the Tampa Bay Times Festival of Reading. She will appear twice, once for Do or Die, the first book in her new romantic suspense trilogy, Reluctant Heroes, and again with her daughter Melanie, a personal trainer and resident of Sarasota, for their YA paranormal romance, Night Sky. Brockmann is arguably most known for her Troubleshooters series, and in the 2004 book of that series, Hot Target, she gained fame for being the first mainstream romance writer to include gay characters in a subplot. She dedicated Hot Target to her openly gay son, Jason, who now lives in Los Angeles. When we caught up with the author by phone, we asked her if she expected her gay story lines to be so well-received by her readers. "I do a lot of signings all around the country, and there were times when I'd be somewhere that I didn't expect everyone to be so open to it, but at those places it seems I'd always get the question, 'Will we be able to read more with the gay characters?' '' Brockmann said. "So it's been wonderful to learn that most of my readers are so very open to diversity.'' Brockmann and her husband, Ed Gaffney, split their time between Sarasota and Massachusetts....

    Suzanne Brockmann
  8. What's Nathan Andersen reading?



    Nathan Andersen

    On Oct. 25, Andersen, 44, will be one of the featured authors at the Tampa Bay Times Festival of Reading, where he'll talk about his book Shadow Philosophy: Plato's Cave and Cinema, which brings Stanley Kubrick's film A Clockwork Orange into philosophical conversation with Plato's Republic. "I compare A Clockwork Orange and what it has to say with ideas from Plato's Republic,'' he said. "So at the book festival, I just want to talk about that idea that we can find philosophy in a context that we might not ordinarily expect.'' Andersen has been teaching philosophy and film at Eckerd College in St. Petersburg for about 15 years. ...

    Nathan Andersen will be at the Tampa Bay Times Festival of Reading on Oct. 25.
  9. What's Tavis Smiley reading?



    Tavis Smiley

    We have no idea what the outcome will be for Smiley, one of the contestants on ABC's Dancing With the Stars, but we do know he spent more than seven weeks preparing in secret for the reality show. Smiley, 50, also has just released a new book, Death of a King: The Real Story of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s Final Year. He hosts a late-night TV show for PBS and two radio shows, The Tavis Smiley Show for Public Radio International and the online program Tavis Talks on BlogTalk Radio....

    Tavis Smiley has just released Death of a King: The Real Story of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s Final Year.
  10. What's Rick Wilber reading?



    Rick Wilber

    We recently caught up with author and editor Rick Wilber, a journalism and mass media professor at the University of South Florida. He will discuss his newest work, Field of Fantasies, an anthology that incorporates baseball and fantasy literature, at this year's Tampa Bay Times Festival of Reading on Oct. 25. Wilber, 66, has written more than 50 short stories and several novels and is the author of My Father's Game: Life, Death, Baseball, a memoir recounting life with his father, major league baseball player Del Wilber. As editor of Field of Fantasies, Wilber read about 150 works before narrowing it down to 23, by writers that include Stephen King, Jack Kerouac, Karen Joy Fowler, Ray Bradbury and T. Coraghessan Boyle. "To read in this subgenre was reading all kinds of stuff I love, so it was an excuse to read way too heavily.''...

    Rick Wilber
  11. What's Lee Grant reading?



    Lee Grant

    In her memoir, I Said Yes to Everything, Grant, 87, looks back at her life, her early years shaping her craft at the famed Neighborhood Playhouse in New York, her first marriage, which led to her being blacklisted from Hollywood for more than a decade, her second — and lasting — marriage to a man 10 years her junior, and her children, Dinah and Belinda, as well as her life's work as an Academy Award-winning actor (for the film Shampoo in 1975) and director (for the documentary Down and Out in America in 1986)....

    Lee Grant,87, reflects on a very full life in I Said Yes to Everything.
  12. What's Sarah Smiley reading?



    Sarah Smiley

    Smiley, 37, is a syndicated columnist and author of three books, I'm Just Saying, Going Overboard and Dinner With the Smileys, which has just been released in paperback. In it, the author chronicles a yearlong project of inviting guests to join her and her three sons, ages 4, 9 and 11, at a weekly dinner while her husband, a Navy pilot, was stationed overseas. Guests ranged from neighbors and teachers to politicians and professional athletes....

    Sarah Smiley, 37, is a syndicated columnist and the author of three books, I’m Just Saying, Going Overboard and Dinner With the Smileys.
  13. What's Jonathan Tropper reading?



    Jonathan Tropper

    If you haven't read it yet, you have until Sept. 19 to read Tropper's hilarious novel This Is Where I Leave You before it hits the big screen with Jason Bateman, Jane Fonda, Adam Driver, Rose Byrne and Tina Fey. The story centers around Judd Foxman, whose father, Mort, has died. Mort's unexpected dying wish was that his family sit shiva, the seven-day period of traditional Jewish mourning. In addition to dealing with his dysfunctional family for a week, Judd is also reeling from his wife's infidelity. Tropper is also the co-creator of the Cinemax show Banshee as well as the author of Plan B, The Book of Joe, Everything Changes, How to Talk to a Widower and One Last Thing Before I Go. We recently caught up with the writer, who is much more serious on the phone than you'd expect, while he conducted business in Los Angeles. ...

    Jonathan Tropper has written numerous books and is co-creator of the Cinemax show Banshee. His novel, This Is Where I Leave You, comes to life on the big screen on Sept. 12.
  14. What's Gail Gutradt reading?



    Gail Gutradt

    Gutradt's work has appeared in the Japan-based Kyoto Journal, Utne Reader and Ashé Journal, and this month she published In a Rocket Made of Ice: Among the Children of Wat Opot, a first-person account of her time spent at an orphanage in rural Cambodia. The author, who describes the orphanage for children and women affected by HIV and AIDS as "a workshop for souls,'' has made four trips to Wat Opot since 2005 as a volunteer. Her first article for the Kyoto Journal, "The Things We've Gone Through Together," was nominated for a Pushcart Prize. In 2008, Gutradt was diagnosed with breast cancer and underwent treatment between trips to Wat Opot. During a phone interview Aug. 7, we asked her to share the experience of being with the children once they learned she had cancer. "Because they had so much experience with illness, they understood what it's like to be looking at the whole thing. They are caretakers and seem to heal each other in so many ways,'' she said. The cancer returned in 2012 and Gutradt, 68, continues to undergo treatment near her home in Bar Harbor, Maine. But this has not stopped her from planning to return to Wat Opot. "The other day I was talking with my oncologist, and it came up that I'd like to go back. The doctor told me, 'Hey, go back for a month. Do it.' I hope to go in January,'' she said....

    Gail Gutradt’s work has appeared in the Japan-based Kyoto Journal, Utne Reader and Ashé  Journal, and this month she published “In a Rocket Made of Ice: Among the Children of Wat Opot,” a first-person account of her time spent at an orphanage in rural Cambodia.
  15. What's Amy Grace Loyd reading?



    Amy Grace Loyd

    Loyd's 2013 novel, The Affairs of Others, was released in paperback this month. It is the story of a young widow, Celia Cassill, whose quest for a quiet life is interrupted when a new tenant brings turmoil into the building.

    Loyd is a former fiction and literary editor at Playboy as well as the former executive editor at Byliner Inc., a digital publishing house. She also worked in the New Yorker's fiction department and was associate editor for the New York Review Books Classics series....

    Amy Grace Loyd is author of 2013’s The Affairs of Others.