Electric City

children’s book brings music, Chicago to life

Emily Kinzel, photos by Andrea Paulseth

SPREADING HER WINGS. Local author Nanci Mortimer’s new children’s book Electric Angel is set in Chicago.
SPREADING HER WINGS. Local author Nanci Mortimer’s new children’s book Electric Angel is set in Chicago.

Vibrant colors, various textures, and one creative story fill the pages of Eau Claire author Nanci Mortimer’s newly released children’s book, Electric Angel.

The story places its readers into a family living in Chicago, where a young girl is immersed in a musical world. Her mother and father bring her to a concert in Millennium Park, inspiring the young girl to dream big. “Electric Angel is more than just a trip downtown and back,” Mortimer explains. “It has some rich imagery, poetic devices, and a few layers of meanings that people begin to see on their second, third, or 24th readings.” Mortimer’s story was written for all ages and connects readers to a cultural encounter through a child’s eyes. It illustrates the excitement attached to artistic power, whether it be from classical concerts, bluesy street performers, or pedestrian life.

Mortimer lived in Chicago for 15 years and truly embeds her personal experience into the story. “I have lots of sweet memories of raising my two oldest daughters there,” she says. “I tend to write from life, so I wrote about our lives there.”

Mortimer adds: “I had a phrase from my oldest daughter, who was 4 at the time. As we were walking around the block, she reached her hands up into the air and then pulled them back down to her sides and announced, ‘I’m pulling down heaven!’ I started to play with that memory,” which shines through Mortimer’s depiction of the young girl’s electric angel wings.

However, the musical aspect of the story, as Mortimer admits, “was (from) my editor I was working with at the time, who first suggested the family attend the Grant Park Music Festival. It was one of those ‘facepalm’ moments for me because as a family we would go to those concerts ALL THE TIME.” She thought, “Why didn’t I think of that? But I am glad (my editor) did,” as the suggestion kicked off a great tale.

Mortimer’s storyline and the illustrations from Della Wells make an outstanding combination for Electric Angel. Wells is a lifelong Milwaukee resident who taught herself the craft of art and storytelling, developing into a world-renowned talent.
Using paper, string, and fabric, Wells created images matching Mortimer’s bright story. “This is a first, picture book-wise, for both Della and me, but Della has work in galleries all over the world!” Mortimer says. “Because she is so well-known in the art scene, she is getting the book into places most traditional picture books would not often go, like art museum gift shops.” (Readers, be on the lookout!)

When asked about what motivated Mortimer’s writing style, she illuminates, “I think it was Ann Lamot who said, ‘A writer can’t NOT write.’ I often have narration going through my head as I go through my day. The trick is to turn those voices into meaningful stories.” She continues: “I sometimes ride the Struggle Bus with the discipline of writing. I believe I have a bit of ADD and mild dyslexia going on that make it difficult to sit down and write, but somehow I manage to get the important ones written.” Despite such obstacles, Mortimer announces, “I have 15-18 different manuscripts in varying degrees of completion. I just sent a story out to a publisher featuring an age-appropriate educational story about modern-day slavery.” We can’t wait to see what Mortimer comes out with next.

For more information about Electric Angel, visit Mortimer’s website, nancimortimer.com, or search for “Electric Angel” on Facebook.

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