The majority of my creative nonfiction is really just the extraction of memories. Some are exact and accessible and as sharp as a picture—running on a soccer field in the early autumn, the grass and dirt stained socks, the immovable sun, leaves turning colors, the white and black checkered balls pinging back and forth. All these details are invaluable to recreating the memory and each sticks to each other to build the scene. This part of the writing is my favorite. I can focus my attention cinematically, as if on a dolly, and follow the action. Here, I exercise the poetic muscles I’ve built over the years of writing poetry and lean entirely on language and descriptions—on metaphor-rich and image-driven storytelling—stories that are as in tune to cadence as they are to syntax and rhetoric. But the real challenge is blending poetry and prose; it’s in creating a story where something happens, where something matters, and this story is one that matters. “When Steve Urkel Played Soccer” is an exploration into the stereotyping of Black and brown boys, but it is also just about a kid trying to fit in. Creating that balance is very important to my storytelling, marrying the individual to the universal. Yes, this story is about tokenism, about being one of the only minority kids in town, about being stereotyped, about how color is somehow equated with athleticism, about how all Black and brown people somehow look and are considered the same—and yet, this story is really more about failing and the humiliation that follows. I believe that is more powerful—that my readers, no matter who they are, can see themselves in my narrator, in me, and feel empathy. I believe that makes a good story.
DAVON LOEB is the author of the lyrical memoir The In-Betweens (Everytime Press, 2018). He earned an MFA in creative writing from Rutgers-Camden. Davon’s work has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net and is featured in Ploughshares Blog, CRAFT, PANK Magazine, University of Nebraska Press, Pithead Chapel, Split Lip Magazine, and elsewhere. Besides being a writer, Davon is a high school English teacher, husband, and father living in New Jersey. Currently, he is writing a YA novel. His work can be found at davonloeb.com and on Twitter @LoebDavon.