July 31, 2016

Dvora Meyers on writing about your passion

Brooklyn based journalist Dvora Meyers has been researching her niche since she was eight. That’s when she started practicing gymnastics, a passion she recently turned into a book.

Brooklyn based journalist Dvora Meyers has been researching her niche since she was eight, as her mother liked to say. She practiced gymnastics for 12 years, and even after she stopped, because of back surgery for severe scoliosis, she still obsessed about it. So she turned it into her writing niche.

“Gymnastics became the prism through which I understood my body, my strict Orthodox Jewish upbringing, my family and even my place as a woman in 2012”, she writes in her self-published collection of essays titled, “Heresy on the High Beam: Confessions of an Unbalanced Jewess.”

Dvora discovered the sport after her parents got divorced. She found in it an escape, a coping mechanism, but also structure, at a time when she felt “everything around her was spinning out of control”. She didn’t excel at it, she says, but loved it and kept on thinking about it over the years.

At 23, about to start grad school in Creative Nonfiction, she was “still checking the online message boards devoted to the sport daily in order to learn which Romanian gymnast had a new vault or who was injured and or who quit and so on”.

Trying to figure out the topic for a first essay, her mind kept drifting to gymnastics, which she hadn’t written much before. “I’m still as obsessed with gymnastics in my 20s as I was at seven. In a very Seinfeldian way, I wondered — What’s that about?”  So she wrote her first essay exploring the role of gymnastics in her life, which helped her understand better  the role that her family’s strict observance of Orthodox Jewish rules was playing in her participation in the sport and how it added fuel to the fire of her obsession.

While in grad school, she started freelancing for several publications, starting with Jewish ones – places like Tablet Magazine and the Forward. After a few years, she started branching out and pitching to other publications, and eventually got pieces into The New York Times, Slate, Salon, etc.

When 2012, an Olympic year, approached, she set for herself the goal of writing about gymnastics for the Summer Games, taking advantage of a year when interest in the sport she loved and knew so much about would be at the highest. She started writing for Slate and Deadspin “the sort of analysis I had always been dying to see about the sport”.

Her passion and knowledge of a niche sport got her her first book deal. “The End of the Perfect Ten: The Making and Breaking of Gymnastics’s Top Score – From Nadia To Now” was published just in time for the Summer’s Olympics, one that marks the 40th anniversary of Nadia Comăneci’s perfect 10’s in Montreal, the first for a female gymnast in Olympic competition.

Here are some of Dvora’s gymnastics articles, just in time for the Olympic Games:

Simone Biles’ Mental Gymnastics: A portrait of 19-year-old phenomenon Simone Biles, considered one of the best in the history of the sport and expected to dominate the coming Olympics

Romania’s Olympic gymnastics failure: where did it all go wrong? An analysis of why Romania failed to qualify to the Olympics, where it used to shine.

The decades of black gymnasts who paved the way for Simone Biles. How does the mental image of the ideal gymnast influence the diversity in a sport once dominated by east-europeans?

The Complete Evolution of the Gymnastics Leotard. A history of how gymnasts’ leotards evolved along the years and how those changes reflected and influenced the evolution of the sport.

Register here for the 6th edition of The Power of Storytelling to find out more about Dvora.