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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 north Pinellas County. 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 Doris Weatherford reading?



    Doris Weatherford

    Weatherford, 74, first realized her interest in women's studies about 50 years ago as a student enrolled in a summer program at Harvard University. She had begun digging for statistics and other information surrounding female immigrants in America. "I quickly realized there really wasn't anything done on women immigrants yet,'' she said in a recent phone interview. Although it would be another two decades before Weatherford published the results of that research in Foreign and Female: Immigrant Writers in America, the experience helped her recognize her passion for the subject. Other books soon followed, including A History of the American Suffragist Movement, Women and American Politics: History and Milestones and her newest release, They Dared to Dream: Florida Women Who Shaped History....

    Author Doris Weatherford
  2. What's David Abrams reading?



    David Abrams

    Abrams served in the U.S. Army for 20 years and was deployed to Iraq in 2005 during Operation Iraqi Freedom. In his new novel, Brave Deeds, he tells the story of six soldiers who choose to go AWOL and maneuver the streets of Baghdad to attend a memorial service for their sergeant, who was killed by a car bomb. The author, who skillfully uses first person plural in most of the book, says he first approached it as a short story. "I knew they would start off in the morning with a mission to get to the memorial service,'' said Abrams, 54. "I started off with the intent for maybe a short story, but I kept typing and then I thought maybe a good novella. I kept typing and fleshing out the story, and the more I got to know the characters the more they warranted longer treatment.''...

    David Abrams’ new novel is “Brave Deeds.”
  3. What's Steph Post reading?



    Steph Post

    Post, 35, grew up until the age of 10 across the street from St. Augustine's famed Alligator Farm. Then her family moved to rural St. John's County. "I was fascinated with that part of Florida. Everything about that rural lifestyle permeates my writing now,'' she said. "The family seems to be so important, and sometimes people's backgrounds are questionable, and it's about that feeling of being tied to the land.''...

    St. Petersburg resident Steph Post’s recent book is “Lightwood.”
  4. Safety Harbor residents offer 'do' and 'don't' suggestions for downtown

    Economic Development

    SAFETY HARBOR — Although many residents would like to see a large grocery store like a Fresh Market or a Publix downtown, it is just not in the cards, according to City Manager Matt Spoor. But the community could see a smaller grocer somewhere on Main Street in the not-so-distant future.

    "Our blocks are not large enough for some of those chains. A 24,000-square-foot grocer with a parking lot for 100 spaces is not going to fit in downtown,'' Spoor said. "But what will fit is a mom and pop style market.''...

    Many residents surveyed would like to see a grocery store of some kind in downtown Safety Harbor. [Douglas R. Clifford, Times]
  5. What's Lee Irby reading?



    Lee Irby

    Known for his historical novels like 7,000 Clams and The Up and Up, Irby changes course with Unreliable, a dark comedy that, well, you're not sure you can trust. Irby, a professor of history at Eckerd College, is a native Virginian raised in Richmond. He graduated with degrees in English and history from the University of Virginia. Unreliable is set in Richmond and just happens to focus on the city's well-known statue of Robert E. Lee. ...

    Author Lee Irby.
  6. Oldsmar City Manager Bruce Haddock talks about 31 years at the helm

    Local Government

    OLDSMAR — Bruce Haddock is stepping down from his role as city manager, a position he has held for 31 years. As the city begins its new fiscal year on Sunday, Haddock will take on a temporary role as special projects manager clearing the way for Al Braithwaite, currently the director of administrative services, to become the city's sixth manager. Haddock's first official day of retirement will be Feb. 1....

    Oldsmar City Manager Bruce Haddock is retiring after 31 years.
  7. What's Emily Ziff Griffin reading?



    Emily Ziff Griffin

    Griffin's first YA novel, Light Years, concerns Luisa, a young woman on the brink of a career as a computer coder who finds herself in the middle of stopping a deadly virus. "The seed of this book comes from my own experience seeing my father die of AIDS as a teenager,'' Griffin said. "I wanted to always tell some version of this story, but I felt ultimately telling the literal version of what happened wasn't going to allow me enough freedom and distance. I wanted it to be compelling to people.''...

    “Light Years” was Emily Ziff Griffin’s first YA novel.
  8. Clearwater boat builder earns Hall of Fame honors

    Human Interest

    CLEARWATER — The year was 1947. A gallon of gas was 15 cents and the brand new car to put it in was $1,300. Here in Pinellas County, a population boom was happening, and with it, a need to better develop activities for family and children.

    With the help of Clifford McKay, founder of the Clearwater Beach Rotary Club, members of the Clearwater Optimist Club approached boat builder Clark Mills to help....

    Clark Mills will be inducted into the Sailing Hall of Fame this month.
  9. What's Nelson DeMille reading?



    Nelson DeMille

    DeMille says he became a writer not because he felt he had talent, but for the adventure of it. "I equated writers with guys who got to drink a lot, see the world and who got a lot of women. It was that certain generation,'' said DeMille, 74. "I was inspired by Hemingway and Ian Fleming and James Bond books. I wanted that life filled with fame and adventure. ''...

    Nelson DeMille’s newest book, “The Cuban Affair,” comes out Sept. 19.
  10. Safety Harbor names liaison named to help downtown


    SAFETY HARBOR — City Manager Matt Spoor has selected Damon Lister to serve as the volunteer economic development liaison for the city. The new position was part of the City Commission's directive to Spoor as city officials consider ways to strengthen the city's downtown core economically. Lister, who has a master's degree in integrated marketing and management communication from Florida State University, is an executive vice president of Park Property Group of Clearwater. He was a City Commission candidate this year but lost to Scott Long....

  11. What's Patrick Ryan reading?



    Patrick Ryan

    In his collection The Dream Life of Astronauts, Ryan, 52, weaves together short stories of life's promises and pitfalls, with characters ranging from egotistical Miss America wanna-bes to a grandmother, an unsafe driver, who was having an affair with her driver's education teacher. All take place on Florida's Space Coast, with its lure of Cape Canaveral and its rocket ships as a backdrop....

    Patrick Ryan, who wrote “The Dream Life of Astronauts,” is a graduate of Merritt Island High and Florida State University.
  12. Epilogue: Meade Gougeon, noted boat builder


    PALM HARBOR — Meade Gougeon spent his life honing his skills as a boat builder. A part-time resident of Palm Harbor, his projects ranged from constructing ice boats at his family's boat shop in Michigan to his late-in-life projects completed after his 70th birthday, building outrigger canoes. The canoes, built for the Everglades Challenge, a 300-mile race with a starting line near the Sunshine Skyway, garnered him first place honors in his division twice, in 2014 and this year. ...

    Meade Gougeon, 78, died at his home on Saginaw Bay.
  13. New Safety Harbor project in negotiations

    Local Government

    SAFETY HARBOR — A new multiuse project could be on its way to downtown. At a recent City Commission meeting, city manager Matt Spoor and his staff received approval to move forward on negotiating a development agreement with Bay to Bay Properties, a construction management firm in Safety Harbor. The 1-acre property, currently a vacant lot owned by Safety Harbor Property Holdings, is just north of Main Street at Second Avenue N. ...

  14. What's Christa Smith reading?



    Christa Smith

    Smith oversees the North Greenwood branch of the Clearwater Public Library System, located in one of Tampa Bay's oldest African-American communities. She has a hefty reading list now; however, as a child she was not a reader. Her passion for books came later. "I didn't read what was out there, the Hardy Boys or Judy Blume, because I did not connect with the characters. They didn't look like me,'' said Smith, 45. "I became interested only after I started volunteering in a library.''...

    Christa Smith oversees the North Greenwood branch of the Clearwater Public Library System.
  15. Epilogue: Benjamin Lee 'Ben' Skinner, businessman, sailor with deep Dunedin roots

    Human Interest

    DUNEDIN — Fresh off a shift at Luekens Food Villa, Jim Davis, 18 at the time, walked along the seawall at the Dunedin Marina. Without any sound, a sailboat glided by, quickly came about at the seawall, inches away from hitting it.

    The captain was Ben Skinner and the boat was the Mexicana, a Morgan 34.

    "Ben tacked, said 'hi,' and then went back out," recalled Davis, 61. "It was a vision. I realized I wanted to get to know him better. He could make that boat go.''...

    Benjamiin Lee “Ben” Skinner was honored by Dunedin, the city that he grew up with.