By Kwame Opoku-Duku III
Former City College student April Martin Chartrand decided she needed to leave a legacy in April 2009.
She had been sharing her poetry among friends and co-workers and getting positive responses, a feat that surprised her considering she’d never taken an English class beyond what was required for the B.A. she received in Creative Arts from San Francisco State University. Her dyslexia adds to her challenges with writing.
A self-described “perfectionist to a fault,” she decided to use all of her talents to complete a project that was 20 years in the making. She used over 70 poems she had written over the years as well as her own illustrations. The finished product is “Angel’s Destiny,” a book of poems written in the style of a novel with the end of each chapter leading to a new step in a spiritual journey.
The four chapters of poetry — Illusions, Anger, Awareness, and Love — press forward to an eventual state of healing, a state Chartrand hopes each reader will find within themselves.
The subject matter was born from an abusive marriage that Chartrand left in 1993. The poems she wrote helped her own healing process.
Her poetry is influenced by Eastern philosophies as well as the violence she experienced in her life and the lives of those she has helped along the way.
“Of course it was cathartic,” Chartrand said. “And of course it was painful. When you’re writing about your life and illusions and anger, you think about it a lot.”
When it came time to publish her finished work Chartrand took conventional steps, sending out queries and manuscripts, but in her mind she knew she was going to self-publish so she could maintain artistic control.
“Poetry is the step-child of the publishing world and does not sell well unless you are a big name like Alice Walker or a newly selected poet laureate,” she said.
Also, a writer who includes their own original illustrations can often hurt marketing a new author.
In the end, she chose to self-publish her book through the website CreateSpace; a decision she has not regretted.
“I basically am a quick learner,” Chartrand said. “I did all the formatting, designed the cover, everything.”
Chartrand relished the underdog role. It gave her a chance to learn for herself. She took classes on web design and even “dated some ‘techie’ guys” to help her out. She put on her own book reading at the San Francisco Main Library in April and sent out over 100 press releases. Her goals are to be a guest on a few shows and hopefully get some good reviews.
She took a chance publishing her own work, “to bypass the gatekeepers,” she said. Although she has many influences, her real inspiration comes from within.
“I want to be what my experience has taught me,” she said. “I want to explore who I am, where I come from. New stories need to be told. People need to be able to tell them.”