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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

E-mail: [email protected]

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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....

  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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. ...

  8. 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.
  9. 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.
  10. What's Oxford Exchange's Laura Taylor reading?



    Laura Taylor

    We caught up with Taylor, the book buyer for the Book Store at Oxford Exchange in Tampa, as it is celebrating its fifth anniversary. When it comes to her work, Taylor, 45, has learned to adjust the store's offerings for its clientele. Currently, nonfiction is selling more than fiction. "Right now 60 percent of sales would be nonfiction, although literary fiction is strong,'' she said. "Those who visit us here seem to be looking for books to keep, not quick read paperbacks. Subjects like history or business; maybe they are building resource libraries at home.''...

    Laura Taylor is the book buyer for the Oxford Exchange Book Store.
  11. New town homes sprouting in Oldsmar

    Real Estate


    Times Staff Writer

    OLDSMAR — City officials have been chipping away for several years on a downtown development plan, bringing new life to a 7-acre site on State Street. One day in the not-far-off future, they want to lively streets and walkways used by residents and visitors alike visiting new businesses, boutiques and restaurants while enjoying Oldsmar's public parks and waterfront. Although much work still needs to be done, one piece of the plan is closer to becoming reality....

  12. New Safety Harbor post office will be on McMullen-Booth Road

    Local Government

    SAFETY HARBOR — Although a move-in date is months away, representatives for the U.S. Postal Service recently signed the lease for the city's new post office.

    It will be at 1703 N McMullen-Booth Road, just north of State Road 590. Before any grand opening, the site, a former Fifth Third Bank bank branch, must undergo an interior build-out, including renovating the back area of the property where four drive-through teller lanes were located, according to Marshall Harris, president of Harris and Co., the real estate brokerage firm who managed the transaction for owners 590 Enterprise LLC....

    In June of next year a new post office will open at the site of a former Fifth Third Bank branch at 1703 N  McMullen Booth Road, Safety Harbor.
  13. What's Madeleine Blais reading?



    Madeleine Blais

    Journalist Blais spent many summers with family at Thumb Point. It was a beach house on Martha's Vineyard built by her father-in-law, former U.S. Attorney General Nicholas Katzenbach. However, as will happen with families, once the patriarch died, the decision was made to sell Thumb Point. Her new memoir, To the New Owners, is Blais' ode to summers gone by as well as a detailed look at the island's secret spots and hodgepodge of celebrity inhabitants. Blais, who is married to novelist John Katzenbach, is a journalism professor at University of Massachusetts, Amherst. In 1980, as a staff member for Tropic, the Miami Herald's Sunday magazine, Blais won a Pulitzer Prize for feature writing....

    “To the New Owners” is journalist Madeleine Blais’ new memoir.
  14. Wanted: New businesses on Safety Harbor's Main Street

    Local Government

    SAFETY HARBOR — A green grocery store, a hardware store, restaurants, boutiques and multi-use buildings are all wanted downtown, according to discussion at a community redevelopment workshop held last week. And to bring them to the Main Street district, city commissioners, led by Mayor Joe Ayoub, gave City Manager Matt Spoor and community development director Marcie Stenmark an assignment: Get the ball rolling....

    Whistle Stop Bar & Grill is one of the main stops on Main Street in Safety Harbor. [LUIS SANTANA | Times]
  15. Organic supermarket Earth Fare to open in Oldsmar


    OLDSMAR — Although talk about a potential arrival started 10 months ago, it is now official. Earth Fare, an Asheville-based organic supermarket chain, is going to open up shop at Woodlands Square, currently being redeveloped by Palm Beach Gardens-based Ram Realty. According to a news release, the 24,000-square-foot store will be adjacent to Beall's.

    This will be the second Tampa-area location for Earth Fare, which opened in Seminole last September and also has locations in Gainesville, Tallahassee, Ocala, and Jacksonville....

     Earth Fare opened in Seminole last year and will open another store in Oldsmar. EVE EDELHEIT   |   Times