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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

E-mail: pcastillo@tampabay.com

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  1. Largo Public Library plans bookmobile as outreach to underserved neighborhoods

    Local Government

    LARGO — Volunteers at the Greater Largo Library Foundation are planning on purchasing a mobile library to reach underserved communities.

    Although fundraising for the library on wheels is in the beginning phase, potential stops on its route will be the two Suncoast YMCA branches in Largo, which include the Greater Ridgecrest and High Point branches, as well as several assisted living facilities and other community gathering places....

  2. What's Cristin O'Keefe Aptowicz reading?

    Books

    Nightstand

    Cristin O'Keefe Aptowicz

    O'Keefe Aptowicz is the author of Dr. Mutter's Marvels, a nonfiction look at the flamboyant 19th century surgeon whose philosophies and innovative surgical ideas often clashed with those of other doctors. His name graces the Mutter Museum in the Center City area of Philadelphia, a museum known for its somewhat odd collection of antique medical equipment, scientific artifacts and vast archives. O'Keefe Aptowicz, a Pennsylvania native, is also the author of six books of poetry and the nonfiction Words in Your Face: A Guided Tour Through Twenty Years of the New York City Poetry Slam. Her recent awards include the ArtsEdge writer in residence at the University of Pennsylvania, a National Endowment of the Arts Fellowship for Poetry and writer in residence at the Amy Clampitt House. ...

    Cristin O’Keefe Aptowicz’s recent awards include the ArtsEdge writer in residence at the University of Pennsylvania, a National Endowment of the Arts Fellowship for Poetry and writer in residence at the Amy Clampitt House.
  3. What's Sonia Manzano reading?

    Books

    Nightstand

    Sonia Manzano

    When Manzano, well known for her role as Maria on Sesame Street, was growing up in the Bronx, she'd watch television keeping an eye out for kids like herself, a Spanish-speaking daughter of immigrants. "This was the 1950s, and I never saw anyone who looked like me on TV. I watched shows like Leave It to Beaver,'' recalled Manzano, 65. "I used to wonder where I would fit in, and when I grew up and was asked to work on Sesame Street, I was told they wanted little Latino kids from the inner city to relate to the show. I thought, 'Wow, I'm going to be what I needed myself as a kid.' "...

    Sesame Street’s Sonia Manzano performs with Big Bird at the Daytime Emmy Awards in Los Angeles in 2009. Manzano joined the show in 1971.
  4. Oldsmar's Market Square development proposal fades away

    Local Government

    OLDSMAR — For years, city officials have discussed Market Square, a public-private project that would revitalize the downtown district with a mix of business and residential activity. However, making the vision a reality has proven to be tough. For the second time in two years, the city has had to break ties with a potential developer for the project that would be centered between State Street and Tampa Road....

    City Manager Bruce Haddock says any talk is months away.
  5. What's Vanessa Diffenbaugh reading?

    Books

    Nightstand

    Vanessa Diffenbaugh

    After studying English and studio art at Stanford University, Diffenbaugh, 37, worked with youth in low-income communities in East Palo Alto, Calif., teaching art and technology. It was there that the story of Letty Espinosa, the main character in her new novel, We Never Asked for Wings, hatched. The novel's themes include poverty, family and finding one's place in the world. It also gives the reader a glimpse of a single mother struggling with the issue of illegal immigration, an issue that came naturally to the story, according to Diffenbaugh. "In California, you can't just drop a character in a low-income community and pretend everyone is documented,'' she said. An advocate for children in foster care, Diffenbaugh is the co-founder of Camellia Network, an organization that is now part of Youth Villages, based in Tennessee. It was created to connect youth aging out of foster care with critical resources and support opportunities. She and her husband, PK Diffenbaugh, have four sons and live in Monterey, Calif. Her first novel, The Language of Flowers, was a New York Times bestseller and translated into more than 40 languages....

    The newest novel by Vanessa Diffenbaugh is We Never Asked for Wings.
  6. What's Philippa Gregory reading?

    Books

    Nightstand

    Philippa Gregory

    Gregory, 61, is widely known for her books on the Tudor period, including The Other Boleyn Girl, which became a 2008 film starring Scarlett Johansson and Natalie Portman, as well as the Cousins War series, which became the 2013 Starz miniseries The White Queen. This month Gregory, who holds a doctorate in 18th century literature from the University of Edinburgh, will release The Taming of the Queen, a historical novel based on the sixth and last wife of Henry VIlI, Kateryn Parr. Parr was a leader of reform and the first woman to have her work published under her own name in England. She was also in love with a man other than her ruler husband. "She was a remarkable scholar with a burning intelligence,'' Gregory said. "And at the same time she was an amazing adulteress with a passion for a man she dare not look at because she was married to a wife killer.''...

    Philippa Gregory, 61, is widely known for her books on the Tudor period, including “The Other Boleyn Girl.”
  7. Oldsmar tax rate to remain flat

    Local Government

    OLDSMAR — The city expects to hold the line on its property tax rate, according to City Manager Bruce Haddock.

    The proposed budget calls for a rate of $4.05 per $1,000 of assessed, taxable property. At that rate, the owner of a $150,000 home with a $50,000 homestead exemption would pay $405 in city property taxes. Although the rate cannot be raised, it could be lowered before the final budget is approved....

  8. What's Barton Swaim reading?

    Books

    Nightstand

    Barton Swaim

    In his witty — albeit dark — memoir, The Speechwriter: A Brief Education in Politics, Swaim shares his work experiences as a communications staffer for a top U.S. politician. Although he never names him in the book, from 2007 to 2010 Swaim was the speechwriter for Mark Sanford, the then-governor of South Carolina who found himself in hot water after lying about being on the Appalachian Trail when he was actually in Buenos Aires with his mistress....

    Barton Swaim is author of The Speechwriter: A Brief Education in Politics.
  9. What's Ashley Rhodes-Courter reading?

    Books

    Nightstand

    Ashley Rhodes-Courter

    In 2003, Rhodes-Courter submitted an essay about growing up in the Florida foster care system for the New York Times Magazine writing contest for high school students. Her entry came out on top and eventually became a memoir, Three Little Words. The book detailed how, after she was taken from her mom at the age of 3, she was shuttled among 14 homes and 44 caseworkers, often suffering at the hands of abusers. Rhodes-Courter, 29, is now known around the world as an advocate for child welfare. In 2012, she unsuccessfully took on Jack Latvala in the District 20 state Senate race, making foster care central in her campaign....

    Ashley Rhodes-Courter’s new book is “Three More Words.”
  10. Airport Variety Store: Longtime sandwich shop closes its doors

    Human Interest

    LARGO — Frank Doyle, a roofer who was ready for lunch, squinted to read the sign on the front door of the Airport Variety Store on a recent Friday. "Closed. No way. I don't believe it,'' he said.

    Margaret Anderson, a home health care nurse from Largo, also stood at the door. "Yep. After all these years, they are closed," she said. "I don't know what I'm going to do when I need a Cuban sandwich fix.''...

    Cuban sandwiches at the Airport Variety Store in Clearwater.
  11. East Lake library will stay crowded after governor's veto

    Local Government

    EAST LAKE — When it was time for the seven pups to perform in the Tricky Dog Show, a standing room only crowd huddled inside the conference room at the East Lake Community Library. Lois Eannel, the library director, was not among them.

    She was in the overflowing parking lot directing traffic. All 30 parking spaces were filled.

    It was just another successful event at the library....

  12. What's Gwendolyn Knapp reading?

    Books

    Nightstand

    Gwendolyn Knapp

    Knapp is the author of a new memoir, After a While You Just Get Used to It: A Tale of Family Clutter. The book details her childhood growing up among hoarders in Holiday, and it's not a holiday, but "a halfway point between mermaids and Scientologists.'' She also examines her struggles as a young adult in New Orleans. Just when she seems capable of navigating odd jobs, like the one at the world's largest booze conference, and tackling day-to-day living with irritable bowel syndrome, who should move to the Big Easy but her mother, Margie. We caught up with Knapp, who holds a master of fine arts in creative writing from the University of North Carolina Wilmington, by phone from her home in Louisiana....

    Gwendolyn Knapp recently released the memoir After a While You Just Get Used to It: A Tale of Family Clutter.
  13. What's Jonathan Sanchez reading?

    Books

    Nightstand

    Jonathan Sanchez

    Sanchez and his wife, Lauren, have owned Blue Bicycle Books in downtown Charleston, S.C., since 2007. Sanchez, who holds an English degree from Yale University, is the author of Bandit, a short story collection, and the founder of Write of Summer Camp for Kids, the Poets in the Schools program at Burke High School and YALLFest, Charleston's Young Adult Book Festival. Blue Bicycle Books is less than a mile from Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church, where nine African-Americans were shot and killed on June 17. "I did know one of the victims, the librarian (Cynthia Hurd) who was killed, personally,'' said Sanchez, 42. "She was a supporter for me in my work and for many others. I do a lot with young people, and I did some work at the library she was managing. She helped a lot of people, and I was one of them.''...

    Author Jonathan Sanchez and his wife, Lauren, own Blue Bicycle Books in downtown Charleston, S.C.
  14. Midnight run starts holiday events in Pinellas

    Human Interest

    While many patriotic revelers will wait until daylight tomorrow, there are some who choose an early start to their celebration. About 2,500 runners will kick off their Fourth of July by kicking up their heels at the 36th annual Kiwanis-Virginia Street Dermatology Midnight Run. The featured event is a 10K race with participants following a path lit by hundreds of glow-sticks along Causeway Boulevard. They'll get a rare glimpse of Honeymoon Island State Park at night as they make the turn-around about one-half mile inside the park....

    Go ahead and “ooh” and “aah,” it’s the Fourth!
  15. What's Meg Heimstead reading?

    Books

    Nightstand

    Meg Heimstead

    Heimstead is the director of education at American Stage Theatre in St. Petersburg, where more than 500 young people will venture onto its stage during this year's summer camp program. Heimstead, 38, has a bachelor of fine arts degree from University of Evansville in Indiana. An avid reader, she stresses that reading "... increases the performer's ability to become empathetic. You might be quick to judge on the outside, but reading the novel (the play is based on) takes you into their thought process.''...

    Meg Heimstead is director of education at American Stage Theatre in St. Petersburg.