"Praying at the Sweetwater Motel" explores the themes of home, family, and loyalty. At first, leaving home in the middle of the night seemed exciting to Sarah Jane Otis, an adventure. It also seemed necessary. Sarah Jane had heard the arguments between her mother and father, had seen the bruises shadowing mama's perfectly made-up face. And when Daddy finally turned his anger on Sarah Jane, Mama seemed to wake up and decide that enough was enough.
Now they're living at the Sweetwater Motel in Ohio, "The Heart of It All." For Sarah Jane, the adventure is over, and reality has set in. Money is tight, and nerves are frayed. Sarah Jane misses her best friend, her books, her grandma, the horse she has always ridden. She even misses her daddy, although she'd never dare tell Mama. As life becomes more difficult for Sarah Jane at home and at school, she begins to regret their escape. Could a motel ever really be a home? Could they ever be a family without Daddy?
Author Visits and Workshops
Dates are available for school or library visits for fall, winter and spring 2005-2006. April will also make appearances at conferences and for your book discussion group. Readers companions are available fo "Waiting To Disappear."
Please check the Events section of this website for upcoming dates for workshops. Contact April for more information about author appearances.
April had a wonderful visit with the students and faculty at Byrne Elementary School in Chicago, IL.
Waiting To Disappear
Is Any of This Book True?
Here's a funny coincidence about something mentioned in the first chapter of Waiting To Disappear. Buddy's mom likes to keep lots of "stuff," and Buddy's grandma warns her, "Well, if she's not careful, the lot of you will end up like those crazy Collyer brothers. The newspaper said they were found dead in their apartment, hidden by stacks of papers and magazines high as corn in August."
When I was a young girl, at the height of my pack rat days and in danger of being buried alive under my "collections," my grandmother used to try to convince me to clean my room with the tale of the Collyer brothers. All these years, I thought she might have made it up, or at least exaggerated what happened to them. But the tale stayed with me and I included it in my book. Then lo and behold, while I was editing the galley pages for my book, I read an article in The New York Times about a new play that opened on Broadway about "Those crazy Collyer brothers." They were found dead in their apartment, buried beneath piles of everything from newspapers to car chasis. If my grandmother were still alive, I would have taken her to see the play, just so she could have said, "See, I told you so."
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Welcome to April's Website
I've been writing ever since I could hold a pen. Mostly scribbles at first, let's call it pre-writing, before I learned to print my name in very big letters. Once I got the hang of it, there was no stopping me. I wrote on paper with lines, plain paper, colored paper.
Once I even wrote my name in script on the living room wall. I think I was about six years old and I didn't think anyone would notice because I wrote my name with a Chapstick. Boy, did I think I was clever. "What's this?" my mom asked as I rushed by her on my way to the kitchen. She pointed to the living room wall. "I don't see anything," I told her. Then she gently positioned me so I could see the wall from her angle. With the sun streaming in the widow, "APRIL" scrawled in Chapstick, glowed its waxy sheen against the newly painted coral-colored wall. Busted! After that, I promised to keep my writing confined to paper.
For my ninth birthday, my grandfather gave me a real fountain pen, the kind you filled with ink from a bottle. I bought myself a good supply of pink paper and filled my pen with brown ink. I thought I was pretty cool. Somewhere along the way, I lost the pen, which is surprising since I am a pack rat and save EVERYTHING. I still have my Dick Tracy cap gun and and an autographed pawprint postcard from Lassie, notifying me I did not win the Name the Puppy contest. Years later I would discover that all the dogs that portrayed Lassie on television were male dogs. No wonder I didn't win.
So, back to my habit of collecting anything that came within two feet of me. I collected baseball cards, dolls, stuffed animals and of course, books. My parents bought me books and let me choose my favorites at a local bookstore. I kept them with my comic book collection on shelves in my room. Afraid of losing even one of them, I gave each title its own index card and kept the cards in a little box on my desk, along with a date stamper and ink pad. If my friends wanted to borrow anything, they had to check it out.
Please go to my biography page to find out how the girl who began her career writing on walls with a Chapstick, finally got to see her work in print in a real book.