Home » MHS, LSUS graduate beats brain tumors, becomes author and publisher

MHS, LSUS graduate beats brain tumors, becomes author and publisher

by Minden Press-Herald

Crystal L. Gantt toted her books and her homework to a routine doctor’s visit when she heard the words she thought she’d never hear again.

Her brain tumor was back.

Gantt, who had beaten brain tumors following a surgery in 2011, was in her final semester of the Master of Business Administration program at LSUS in 2016.

“I asked the doctor if he was joking,” Gantt said. “The first thing I thought was that I can’t do this again.

“Why is this happening to me? I’m so young. But after those waves of emotion, then came the strength, the resilience and the courage. Ok, I have to go through it again, I have to beat it again. There is a purpose and a reason – there’s a testimony at the end.”

Gantt’s condition wasn’t an emergency, which allowed doctors to monitor her condition so she could finish the online MBA program in 2016.

A 2018 surgery and subsequent recovery gave her another clean bill of health, but the scare thrust her life into a new direction.

Gantt, now 43, knew from a young age that she wanted to become a published author, and she pursued that dream with a new vigor.

The Minden High graduate attended a beginner’s publishing class through LSUS Continuing Education, which laid the first brick in what would become William Madison Publishing, LLC.

“Going through these experiences made me realize how short life is and how you can’t sit on your dreams,” Gantt said. “You have to chase your dreams – do today the things you want to put off until tomorrow.

“That gave me the push and the courage to do everything I want to in life. Those experiences shaped and transformed me to become a more compassionate person and to want to help other people achieve their dreams.”

Gantt has loved to write for as long as she can remember, recalling her first poem being about divorce as a six year old.

A product of a long line of teachers, from mother Carolyn to many of her aunts, reading and writing have been key pillars in Gantt’s foundation.

“I always knew that I wanted to write, and that I’d be a published author,” said Gantt, who described herself as a “very shy” child who discovered an ability to express herself through writing. “I just didn’t understand how to get published.

“I wanted to write books for children who looked like me, who had been through my experiences. I was bullied growing up, and I’ve overcome illnesses. I wanted to be someone who those children could look up to and relate to.”

The COVID-19 pandemic offered a further opportunity for Gantt to pursue her dream as she found an online publishing class that focused on writing children’s books in 2020.

She had plenty of ideas and manuscripts from her life-long love of writing, but the process of getting published was the hard part.

“Publishing is such a tough industry, and I didn’t know how to go through a traditional publisher,” said Gantt, who had built a career as a government employee. “I learned about character design and development, how to hire an illustrator, and book distribution.”

So she started her own publishing company William Madison Publishing in 2021, named after her great-great-grandfather and great-grandfather.

“One of the things I learned from that publishing class through (LSUS Continuing Education) – our writing is our business,” said Gantt, who paired that knowledge with other nuggets gleaned from her MBA. “One professor told us that entrepreneurship was the wave of the future, and he encouraged us to invest in ourselves and become business owners.

“I never forgot that. The MBA program was pivotal for me because it helped me to understand the business side of a company. Understanding workplace culture, diversity in the workplace, business finances and customer service; I’ll use that knowledge in my publishing business for years to come.”

Gantt published the first of five children’s books shortly after, “Aiden Picks Ten Apples,” which is an interactive counting book.

A sequel “Aria Picks Ten Apples” followed, with a companion coloring and activity book titled “Aiden and Aria Learn Numbers 1-10.”

Gantt, who is African-American, wanted to publish books with characters that looked like her.

“Representation shapes perceptions and views that children as well as adults have of themselves,” Gantt said. “It’s crucial that children see themselves represented in books. It helps them develop an identity that’s essential for them in believing they are enough and are worthy.

“When a child sees a character that looks like them and shares a similar experience, it helps validate their existence. Having all children exposed to diverse characters and perspectives fosters inclusivity and expands the world around them.”

Gantt’s other two children’s books, “Snowfall: A Snow Day Story” and “Glorious: A Child’s Special Prayer” came next.

Her battle with brain tumors also encouraged her to help others, and she’s helping publish three other authors from Louisiana, Texas and Virginia, respectively.

Gantt, a Bossier City resident, is currently writing an adult book about her own story.

 “I think there is so much more for me to do. I feel like my experiences and accomplishments are to help someone else,” said Gantt, who attributes her success to her mother Carolyn, a retired elementary teacher that taught in Webster, Claiborne and Caddo parishes. “Every step taken, every dream that’s come true – I hope to be an inspiration to someone else who is facing adversity, trauma, and illness. I hope that my walk can help someone else in their journey.”

To learn more about Gantt and to follow her latest projects, visit her website crystallgantt.com.

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