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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 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.
  2. '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.
  3. 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
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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
  8. 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.
  9. 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.
  10. What's Cynthia Weil reading?



    Cynthia Weil

    If you've seen the 2013 Tony-award winning play Beautiful: The Carole King Musical, you'll recognize Cynthia Weil as King's friend and fellow songwriter. Weil and her husband, Barry Mann, have a friendship with King that dates to the early 1960s, during their time writing songs inside Broadway's famed Brill Building. Weil's songs — she penned the lyrics, her husband the music — include You've Lost That Lovin' Feeling, On Broadway and We Gotta Get Out of This Place. ...

    Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil are a husband and wife songwriting team.
  11. What's Melissa Kite reading?



    Melissa Kite

    We recently caught up with Kite, 43, a columnist for the British magazine the Spectator. Kite, who admits an obsession with comedy that ranges from 30 Rock and Curb Your Enthusiasm to her own country's Monty Python, recently released her memoir, The Art of Not Having It All: True Stories of Men, Sex and Other Disasters. She and her dog, Cydney, live in London....

    Melissa Kite is a columnist for the British magazine the “Spectator.” Kite recently released her memoir, “The Art of Not Having It All: True Stories of Men, Sex and Other Disasters.”
  12. What's Graham Nash reading?



    Graham Nash

    On Jan. 12, an hour before his solo performance at the Capitol Theater, we were lucky enough to bump into Nash, 72, on Cleveland Street in downtown Clearwater. Although a light rain was falling, and it was quick, the legendary singer-songwriter and two-time Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee (for his work with Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young in 1997, and the Hollies in 2010) was kind enough to share what he's reading with the Tampa Bay Times....

    Graham Nash recently performed at the Capitol Theater in Clearwater.
  13. Famed comedy troupe visits Largo Cultural Center

    Human Interest


    Performers from Second City of Chicago, known for producing some of the nation's top comedic talent, have embarked on a Florida tour. They'll make their one Tampa Bay stop Sunday at the Largo Cultural Center.

    The story goes that in 1959, a group of coffee-drinking, cigarette-smoking Chicagoans realized a need for a venue focused on both comedy and conversation. The result was a nightly cabaret show, and more than 50 years later, Second City has arguably become the nation's comedy powerhouse. Alumni include the likes of Alan Arkin, Joan Rivers, John Belushi, Gilda Radner, Stephen Colbert, Tina Fey and Cecily Strong, and the list continues to grow....

    Second City members, from left, Jamison Webb, Casey Whitaker, Jasbir Singh, Kelsey Kinney, John Sabine and Blair Beekenfor will bring their comedic stylings to the Largo Cultural Center for one show on Sunday as part of the Chicago group’s Florida tour.
  14. What's Jacquelyn Mitchard reading?



    Jacquelyn Mitchard

    Mitchard is visiting St. Petersburg this week as one of the instructors for the 2015 Writers in Paradise, Eckerd College's annual writing conference. She is the author of The Deep End of the Ocean, which became a movie with Michelle Pfeiffer and was the first selection for Oprah's Book Club. Her other books include The Cage of Stars, The Breakdown Lane and The Most Wanted, which received Britain's Orange Prize for Fiction. In 2013, Mitchard, an instructor in the MFA program at Vermont College of Fine Arts, became editor in chief of Merit Press, a young adult fiction imprint of F&W Media. A longtime journalist and a contributing editor for More magazine, Mitchard lives on Cape Cod with her family. On Saturday, she will be the featured author during Eckerd's Evening Reading Series, and the public is invited to attend. (See Book Talk for details.) ...

    Jacquelyn Mitchard, in St. Petersburg this week for the Writers in Paradise conference at Eckerd College, is author of The Deep End of the Ocean.
  15. Fighting hunger, one Sunday meal at a time

    Human Interest

    CLEARWATER — When she first drove up to the vacant lot on Tangerine Street, eight people were waiting for her. By the time Mildred Burney finished passing out the breakfasts, the crowd had doubled.

    She began by asking them to join her in a circle. One woman, Rosa Bostick, volunteered to lead a prayer. "God, thank you for this wonderful donation of food,'' Bostick said. "And thank you too for the one who brings it to us.''...

    Mildred Burney cooks Sunday breakfasts in her kitchen and takes them to the needy in the North Greenwood community.