Be a kind human. That has been Marissa Bader's life goal since her dad taught her that how we treat others matters, that no human is less or more important than any other, and to always treat everyone with kindness and respect. Now, she is passing these lessons down to her kids and spreading the word as a writer in every aspect of her work.
The mother of three young girls (two 7-year-old twins and an 11-year-old) and author of two children's books ("The Only Me" and "Stella's Brave Voice"), Bader was the first guest of "Let's Connect," a new Southwest Connector community speaker event series that spotlights great local people in Minneapolis doing great things. During an in-person conversation with me in front of about a dozen people at Everett & Charlie art gallery in Linden Hills on Dec. 1, Bader highlighted the importance of connection when it comes to parenting and building strong communities.
"It's really about community," said Bader. "So we're not parenting in a vacuum. We're not living in a vacuum. We're reaching out to our tribe, to other parents, to our friends, to our community that we're not doing it alone. Because on the days where I felt or feel like I'm in it alone are my hardest days. But when I know I have a support system of other parents, of other people that kind of get it, I feel so much better.
"So to me, it really is about that. We don't know what we don't know, and we don't what we're feeling. Someone else is probably feeling it too. So it's really important to reach out and to just be connected."
Bader, who lives in Linden Hills with her husband Robb (part of Bader Development) and their children, has always been driven to connect (and feel connected) to others. It's why she writes. Her tagline is "connecting hearts through stories," and Bader wants to spread joy and kindness with her writing and show that despite our differences, underneath it all, we are all just human beings having a shared human experience.
Connection is the key.
"We are all in relationships with others all the time," explained Bader. "We are not on an island. We're not meant to be on an island. Human beings are meant to be connected."
Bader is also a writer/editor for Lucie's List, a website that is a survival guide for new parents. With a master's degree in marriage and family therapy, she weaves the theme of connection into everything she does.
"Kind of how our relationships mold us and how they lift us up, they can affect us in any which way. So the underpinning of everything that I write about in children's books is that notion that we're all connected, the shared journey, if you will, we're all human beings underneath it all experiencing one common shared journey despite our seeming differences. It just impacts everything that I do and write about."
Nowadays, with the last few years, the pandemic, and everybody shutting off and opening up again, it's important to get more people connected to rediscover and restore our shared humanity. Bader sees the bright side of this moment and appreciates all the people who are doing good things and who really have people's best interests at heart.
"We're so used to turning on the news and seeing these terrible stories all the time, violence and all the things that are wrong, but what about the things that are going well?" said Bader. "What about the positive things that are happening in our community and the relationships people are building?
"To me, that would go such a long way in restoring that sense of humanity because I think we're all at this crossroads now. We're like, what is happening in the world? And it feels like it's upside down. And maybe if we are less saturated with all the negative and had a little bit more positive, it might feel different. Maybe that's a pipe dream. But that's how I feel."
That's how a lot of people feel today. Everyone has the capability to be a little bit more positive, a little bit more kind, a little more human. We just have to do it more.
In other words, be a little more like Marissa Bader.
You can watch the whole "Let's Connect" conversation with Marissa Bader on the Southwest Connector YouTube channel. The next "Let's Connect" is with Lana Gendlin Brooks and Karina Muller, the artisans and founders of HeartCentric Divine Creations, on Friday, Jan. 12, 9-10 a.m. at Everett & Charlie. Let us know if you want to be a future sponsor or speaker.
How long have you lived in Linden Hills?
I have lived in Linden Hills since 2014 and we absolutely love it! My husband and I could not think of a better place to raise our three daughters. We have the most amazing community, neighborhood and enjoy walking or biking into Linden Hills with our kids for dinner, a trip to Wild Rumpus and of course ice cream at Sebastian Joe’s! It feels like a small, tight knit community within the city!
Although I grew up in Saint Paul and graduated from the now Two Rivers High School, one of my very best friends grew up in Southwest Minneapolis, just one block down from the house my family currently lives in. I loved spending time with her and her family in this warm and charming neighborhood – we enjoyed lots of sleepovers, walks around the lakes and hanging out in Linden Hills! – and I always kept Southwest Minneapolis in my mind as an area I’d love to settle in and raise a family one day.
I grew up in Mendota Heights, a suburb of Saint Paul, and my family always got the Saint Paul Pioneer Press. When I was much younger, I wrote a piece for the paper about suffering and surviving a brain bleed in my 20s.
When did you decide you wanted to be a writer?
I’ve been a writer for as long as I can remember. Truly, writing is so much more than what I do – it’s who I am. As a small girl I would spend hours upon hours journaling, writing short stories, poetry, creative non-fiction and more. For me, writing has always been my way of making sense of my thoughts, feelings, the world and my place in it; I often say that I don’t know what I think or feel until I write it down. For me, writing is like oxygen; it’s my lifeline!
That said, in a professional capacity, I’ve been working in the journalism and communications field since my early 20s: I’ve served as a grant writer and development associate for the Rockefeller University in New York City, a freelance writer both in New York and here in Minneapolis, a web copywriter and editor for Life Time Fitness. I’ve also worked in corporate marketing and public relations, and I currently serve as the Twins editor and mental health writer at Lucie’s List, a newsletter and website geared towards expectant and new parents.
Why children’s books?
I’m a huge lover of children’s books – I always have been. First and foremost, I love the way picture books can evoke such wonderful and warm memories; I have the fondest memories of snuggling with my mom as she read “Goodnight Moon” to me before bed. Now when I read that same book to my own children, I can still smell her perfume and feel her tight, loving squeeze. It warms my heart.
In addition, I just love the way children’s book authors skillfully weave important life lessons throughout the pages of their books in ways kids can understand and relate to. Three of my most favorite books that do this so well are “The Rabbit Listened” by Cori Doerrfeld, “The Invisible String” by Patrice Karst and Joanne Lew-Vriethoff and “I Am Enough” by Grace Byers. I love the way these books help children understand and manage emotions, build self-confidence and help them feel safe in an unpredictable world.
How do your children inspire your writing?
My children are truly THE inspiration behind my children’s book topics. I have a set of twins, now seven, and a singleton, now 11. My first book, “The Only Me,” was deeply inspired by the fact that though my twins are two different people with very different personalities, likes, dislikes, etc., people were constantly comparing and contrasting them. This led to them measuring themselves against the other and struggling with that. I wanted them to understand that though they are twins, they are still individuals with their own set of skills, talents, amazing qualities, and so on. In “The Only Me,” one of the twins, Stella, gains so much more self-confidence and assurance as she learns this lesson by book’s end.
“Stella’s Brave Voice,” a follow-up to “The Only Me,” is also based on a struggle in our home. We have a dynamic in which one of our children is more soft-spoken, while the other two are a bit louder and more assertive. We’ve been working hard to ensure everyone in our house knows their thoughts, feelings, opinions and voices matter. In “Stella’s Brave Voice,” Stella struggles with this, as her sister often interrupts and talks for and over her. She, too, is working hard to practice speaking up, and use her brave voice in her home, with her friends and at school.
How does your background in mental health factor into your children’s books?
I like to write about topics kids may be struggling with mentally and emotionally. As I mentioned, I see the challenges my children – and their friends – face, and find inspiration there. I also think it’s hugely important to help build children’s sense of self-esteem, worth and value; I truly aim to do that through my books, as well as in person any time I get to meet with young readers.
What does your writing process look like?
When an idea comes to me, I just… start. I pull out my computer or a notebook, wherever I happen to be, and begin writing. My first draft usually is… terrible. Ha! But that’s what first drafts are for. I like to get all my ideas out on paper – it’s almost like throwing every color of paint on a wall to see which hues work together and which don’t – and then re-reading and re-writing several times to determine which elements belong in the story, and which ones I need to scrap.
What’s next for you? Any new books that you’re working on?
Yes! I’m currently working on another children’s book about a little girl who struggles with always wanting to be and do everything perfectly. She is going to struggle with this sense of perfectionism, and learn that it’s okay – great and healthy, even! – to make mistakes! In fact, this book idea was, in part, inspired by my oldest daughter’s first grade teacher at Lake Harriet Community School, Ms. Bruce. She taught her that every time we make a mistake, our brain grows! We – my husband and myself included – remind each other of that every single day!
You can find my books locally at Wild Rumpus, Kiddywampus, Magers & Quinn and in Saint Paul at The Red Balloon Bookshop. You can also find them on Amazon and Bookshop.org: The Only Me & Stella’s Brave Voice.
Feel free to follow me on Instagram @MarissaBaderWriter and check out my website at: www.marissabader.com
Minneapolis is filled with great local people doing great things in the world. The Southwest Connector will showcase them with "Let's Connect," a new community speakers series.
Every month, the Southwest Connector will feature an interesting local resident to talk about their work and life in Minneapolis. Southwest Connector owner/editor Tesha M. Christensen and Southwest Connector columnist Eric Ortiz will moderate the conversation and take questions from the audience.
"Let's Connect" will take place on the first or second Friday of every month, from 9-10 a.m., at Everett & Charlie, an art gallery in the Linden Hills neighborhood of Minneapolis.
The goal of "Let's Connect" is to celebrate great locals, support their work, and build community.
The "Let's Connect" speaker series is free and open to the public. All are welcome to join us. Food and drinks will be provided.
Rautenberg will share about her work with the Linden Hills Neighborhood Council, and some of the exciting things happening in Linden Hills now and planned for the future.
Binkowski will talk about her work with the Southwest Business Association, how the SWBA helps small and independent businesses grow, how things are going for small and independent businesses in Minneapolis, and what's new and planned for SWBA in 2024.
Let's Connect with Gina Rautenberg and Karen Binkowsk on Friday, March 8, at 9 a.m. at Everett & Charlie art gallery in Linden Hills (2720 West 43rd Street #103, Minneapolis, MN 55410). Southwest Connector columnist Eric Ortiz will moderate the conversation and take questions from the audience. Please RSVP and join us.