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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 Adam Riches reading?



    Adam Riches

    It was a book, How to Draw Comics the Marvel Way by Stan Lee and John Buscema, that helped Riches, 29, realize his passion for art. He received it as a gift at the age of 6, and he immediately began tracing Lee's characters and "over time trying to replicate the images freehand and finally applying the concepts represented in the book to create my own original art,'' said Riches, who grew up in Largo and graduated from the Ringling College of Art and Design. "Art — drawing, painting, sculpting — has been an ever present part of my life.''...

    Adam Riches created the cover for G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero: The Death of Snake Eyes: Part 1, #212, which includes all 280 villains G.I. Joe has battled over the years.
  2. Comic book artist returns to the store of his youth

    Human Interest


    At first, Leonardo and Michelangelo were the inspiration for his art. No, not the Italian masters, the reptiles. One of Adam Riches' earliest childhood memories is studying the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles comic strip and then putting the characters into pictures of his own.

    Once he started elementary school, Riches, now 29, expanded his repertoire — the X Men, Spider-Man and the Green Lantern, Chewbecca, and Boba Fett. He also became an avid G.I. Joe fan. Whenever he could, he'd persuade his parents to take him to Emerald City, a store then in Seminole, now in Pinellas Park, where he'd immerse himself in what would become a life's passion — comic books....

    Adam Riches designed a wrap-around cover that has the distinction of having the most characters ever on any single-issue comic book cover: 280 distinct characters.
  3. What's Constantine Grame reading?



    Constantine Grame

    We caught up with Grame, 32, the artistic director of the New Century Opera in Tarpon Springs, as he finished up the company's most recent production, Tales of Hoffman. Grame earned an advanced certificate in piano from the Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music in London. While growing up in Pinellas County, he was homeschooled by his father, Theodore Grame, a musicologist who started the Tarpon Operetta in 1988, which evolved into the New Century Opera with his son at the helm. Grame and his wife, Lauren, live in Tarpon Springs....

    Constantine Grame, artistic director of the New Century Opera in Tarpon Springs, has a diverse collection of reading materials.
  4. Young artist's work lives beyond her death

    Human Interest

    CRYSTAL BEACH — Courtney Alison Daniel's winning entry at the Crystal Beach Youth Art Show is acrylic on canvas, a silhouette of a woman with arms outstretched. She is about to ascend toward the sun, leaving behind an eerie mist topped with barren trees.

    The painting is dated April 21, 2011. It was painted four months before Daniel died of a drug overdose.

    When Pat and Joe Daniel learned that the Crystal Beach Youth Center was sponsoring an art show, they decided to enter their daughter's untitled work, along with another sketch of the Hindu god Ganesh, posthumously....

    Patricia Daniel pauses to reflect on her daughter’s painting that won two prizes in the Crystal Beach Youth Art Show.
  5. What's Deborah Moggach reading?



    Deborah Moggach

    It took a few trans-Atlantic phone calls and emails, but eventually we caught up with Moggach, who lives in Presteigne, Wales. She is well known for her novel These Foolish Things, the basis for the sleeper hit movie The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel and its sequel, The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, which is in theaters now. Another one of her books is about to hit theaters: Tulip Fever, a romance set in 17th century Amsterdam. Moggach's most recent novel, Heartbreak Hotel, was released March 3 by Overlook Books. ...

    Deborah Moggach’s novel These Foolish Things was the basis for the hit movie The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel and its sequel.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.
  9. 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.
  10. '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....

    Fester Addams, played by Michael Shurtz, professes his love for the moon during rehearsal. The scene was not easy, “but we got it now,” Shurtz said.
  11. 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.
  12. 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.
  13. '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.
  14. 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....

    John Mastromarchi
  15. 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.