February 2 question – Is there someone who supported or influenced you that perhaps isn’t around anymore? Anyone you miss?
If you’ve ever submitted a short story or poem to a literary magazine, you’re familiar with writing a short, 3- to 5-sentence third-person biography about yourself. Nothing too detailed. Just a few fun facts about yourself—your interests, your hobbies, what inspired you to write, a list of previous publications (but not too many; we don’t like a brag). If your work is accepted, this biography will appear alongside it in the published issue of the magazine.
Over the years, I’ve spent time perfecting my bio, revising it as I discovered my voice and my creative niche. The final product sums up my life, my style, and my influence quite nicely:
Nortina Simmons has been writing since the age of three, inspired by her songwriting, guitar-playing father. Her stories and poems never quite fell into the category of ‘love.’ Love in the real world has restrictions, is wrapped in pain. Through her writing, she explores the characteristics of love the hopeless romantics remain ignorant to. Every ‘love story’ has a curse within. Nortina has stories and poems published in Agave Magazine, FishFood Magazine, Ceases, Cows, Meat for Tea: The Valley Review, fēlan, Twisted Vine Literary Arts Journal, and Minerva Rising.
As the bio says, my biggest inspiration was my dad. He died of lung cancer when I was 18, but his influence lives on in my writing. My dad was a triple-threat artist. He was a painter, a songwriter, and a musician. My earliest writing memory was writing a ballad called “Oh, Desire” and singing it for him as he played his guitar and my little brother smacked his tambourine in the background. I still faintly remember the lyrics.
Oh, desire for my heart forever.
Will you love me if we're not together?
Do you want to have dinner at a table to love each other?
Do you want to have dinner at a table for two?
At one point we recorded it on cassette, which may still be somewhere in my childhood bedroom. I found it once, several years ago, and listened to it repeatedly—immersing myself in the memory, rewinding the clock—until the cassette player chewed the tape (did I just reveal my age?). The next time I go home, I may look for it again.
In addition to writing music together, we also wrote stories. Often times I would do the writing, and he would do the illustrations. Memorable titles include “The Junkyard Kids” and “Children’s Island.” There was even an intergalactic space odyssey, but I think that was more his idea than mine.
Some of my fondest childhood memories were of us creating together. I owe so much of the writer I am today to him. Unfortunately, our real-life story didn’t have a happy ending. Life happened, and he moved across country with a new wife and family when I was barely a teenager. His diagnosis came a few years later. I saw him just once after that, and the next month he was gone. But those few nostalgic days we spent together, when we were reminiscing, and writing, and singing, and playing music, I will cherish forever.
After all these years, I still miss our collaborations. Even though he’s not here anymore, I read those lyrics from our song, specifically the first two lines, “Oh, desire for my heart forever./Will you love me if we’re not together?” and imagine younger me saw a glimpse of a future when I would have to write without him and thought to remind me, his love and support is always here, in my heart.