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Spreading kindness through words
Robin Marsden and her husband, Kalen, of Brodhead play with their son, Ansel, at their home in Brodhead March 31. Marsden has independently published three books through Amazon and is working on her fourth. (Times photo: Marissa Weiher)
BRODHEAD - All her life, Robin Marsden has been writing stories containing themes of compassion, but it wasn't until recently those stories made it outside of her notebook.

Within the last few months, Marsden has independently published three books and has a fourth currently in the works.

"What I want people to get from my books - feeling loved, knowing the importance of kindness and positivity," Marsden said. "My dad always made sure we knew the importance of being kind, and my mom always makes sure we know the importance of positivity."

These themes are echoed throughout all of Marsden's books - but especially in her second book, a devotional called "A Feather and a Button" where she shares stories of her almost 2-year-old son, Ansel, her husband, Kalen, and her father, Phil Rundle, paired with specially selected scriptures from the Bible. Marsden included space for reflection in the works, which she said are the type of books she enjoys.

Marsden lost her father unexpectedly to a heart attack almost three years ago. She sees her writing as a way to share the life lessons she learned from him.

"We'd always been so close, so losing him was really difficult and still is," Marsden said. "Writing about him and thinking about everything he's taught me was really therapeutic."

In addition to sharing lessons from her father, Marsden writes about lessons she's learned from her son and husband. She said writing about Kalen was a great reflection on how much she appreciates everything he does. In the book, Marsden mentions her appreciation for the honest expression and kindness of Ansel.

Her venture into publishing books started with encouragement from her husband after she wrote a book for Ansel.

Kalen said seeing how much enjoyment she got out of it, he told her "Why not?" When he opened "A Feather and a Button," he was surprised to see she had written about him.

"It's the first book I've read cover to cover in my life," Kalen said, which Marsden said she takes as quite the compliment.

Marsden's other books are specifically for children. Her first, originally just for Ansel, was "We Love You All the Time, Forever and Ever." Her most recent work is "Merle: The Little, Red Rusty Truck." The first is designed like a coloring book, with blank pages for children to draw pictures of their loved ones. She was inspired to write "Merle" at one of her "A Feather and a Button" signings. A young boy told her he wished she would write about trucks. The book is filled with drawings Marsden made herself.

Marsden graduated from Brodhead High School in 2005 and received her bachelor's degree in elementary education from the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater. She went on to get her master's degree in counseling. Both of her parents, Phil and Mary Rundle, were teachers who retired from the Brodhead School District.

Prior to being a stay-at-home mom to Ansel, Marsden was the Monroe Middle School counselor and received training for the Nurtured Heart Approach, a teaching method by the Children's Success Foundation. Marsden said the approach goes beyond telling a child "good job" and instead encourages teachers to be specific by telling children why they've done well.

Her training inspired her to write a children's book directly related to the Nurtured Heart Approach, which she's waiting to get approved by the foundation.

Marsden publishes her books through Amazon and said she's discovered writing is the easiest part. She does her own editing, sometimes appointing friends to look over her work, and has had to learn how to format her work so the finished product looks the way she wants.

"It's been fun and interesting," Marsden said. "It seems like since I started doing this the ideas just keep coming."

One of her favorite books is "Matilda" by Roald Dahl, a book her dad taught her in school. Because of her love of "Matilda," her goal is to eventually write a chapter book for children.

She cites Ansel, Kalen, her family and God as her biggest inspirations for writing.

Her books are available at Monroe Engraving, The Haven in Orfordville and on Amazon. Marsden will be one of about 30 authors attending Madtown Author Daze in Madison May 5.

"I just think being kind and being positive are really important," Marsden said. "So any way I can spread some love and joy, I'm happy to do."