In 2009, I moved from Philadelphia to Boston to start a job as a cost of living surveyor at AIRINC. The previous two years I’d applied to about two hundred jobs and had heard back from three companies. It was the heart of the economic downturn and there was little to be found. Luckily though, the job at AIRINC was by far and away my best fit and I landed in the right place, at the right time, and in the right setting to continue writing my memoir.
My new career took me out on quarterly surveys to collect cost of living data across the globe, including places like China, Venezuela, Saudi Arabia, Indonesia, Colombia, Liberia, Australia, and many, many others. These trips enlivened my sense of adventure, heightened my global knowledge, and enabled me the time to read and write both from the road and from the office as I began a new daily regimen.
Though I’ve always been a night owl, jetlag and the desire to begin the day with my book helped changed me into a morning person. I started waking up at five a.m. – both on the road and at home – so that I could write for the first few hours of the day. As I did this, I took my first draft along with the criticism I’d received from those professionals who’d read it, and I began again with a fresh start.
Ten, twenty, and sometimes thirty hours a week I wrote. I reconstructed my story and followed a much more balanced and sequential timeline. I divided my story into four parts so that I could focus on one stage at a time to properly develop the ideas and experiences so that the reader could easily follow along with full engagement.
In this process of rewriting, I experimented with the different writing styles I’d been studying from the varied reading syllabus I’d created. This helped me to extract my own writing style in a consistent and formulaic way, rather than the inconsistent and often changing style I’d applied to my first draft. Though difficult at first, this consistency of attention to detail kept me on track and focused my ideas into fast-paced stories that flowed evenly from beginning to end.
My writing improved and my story took shape. I began to see the picture I’d envisioned from the outset but hadn’t understood how to construct. I pushed forward.
Author Gerald Abbey to read from his latest book at Fairfield University
FAIRFIELD, Conn. (February 19, 2014) – Fairfield alumnus Gerald Abbey ’04, author of “Cheers, Beers & Eastern Promise,” his memoir of his Fulbright Scholar year in Taiwan, will read from his work on Wednesday, March 5, at the University’s Aloysius P. Kelley, S.J. Center Presentation Room. Abbey’s talk begins at 5:30 p.m. and is free and open to the public.
“Cheers, Beers & Eastern Promise” is a funny and illuminating look at a young American man who journeyed to a small village on the other side of the globe in 2004. He spent a year teaching English as a foreign language, then moved to Taipei and continued teaching for a second year before returning to America. “I landed in Taiwan as an ignorant and incapable foreigner from Philadelphia armed with optimism, hope and a willingness to fail,” he wrote on his website. “But in the rubble I found my fresh start, ready to tackle new obstacles on the way to learning lessons about life that I still carry with me nine years later.”
Abbey holds a degree in English education from Fairfield University. He worked on his book for eight years before it was published in December 2013.
“Gerry has a keen intellect and a strong inquisitive spirit – these abstract adjectives came through with concrete specificity in his writing – lucid, logical argument structures, clear prose, and excellent wit in his papers,” said Gita Rajan, Ph.D., professor of English, who has successfully mentored five Fulbright students at Fairfield University. “It is no surprise then to see these qualities expressed in his book, and his provocative title.”
Abbey’s Fairfield appearance is sponsored by the University’s Department of English, JUHAN, Student Programs and Leadership Development.
For more information on this event, contact Elizabeth Hastings, firstname.lastname@example.org or (203) 254-4000, ext. 2688.
Vol. 46, No. 177
Fairfield University is a Jesuit University, rooted in one of the world’s oldest intellectual and spiritual traditions. More than 5,000 undergraduate and graduate students from 36 states, 47 foreign countries, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico are enrolled in the University’s five schools. In the spirit of rigorous and sympathetic inquiry into all dimensions of human experience, Fairfield welcomes students from diverse backgrounds to share ideas and engage in open conversations. The University is located in the heart of a region where the future takes shape, on a stunning campus on the Connecticut coast just an hour from New York City.
Starting now through March 7th, the Kindle version of Cheers, Beers, and Eastern Promise will be marked down from $8.99 to $3.99! Don’t hesitate – check out the reviews and pick up yours today. This is an incredible and limited time offer for the Five-Star Rated (Amazon.com and Goodreads.com) and soon-to-be bestseller Cheers, Beers, and Eastern Promise!
Check out some of the many Five-Star Amazon Reviews thus far:
“Cheers, Beers and Eastern Promise is a great read!”
“Cheers, Beers and Eastern Promise is a must read for anyone that likes to travel or enjoy an adventure.”
“A must read for anybody who has traveled to a foreign culture or somebody who is about to embark in such an adventure.”
“His thirst for life is contagious and refreshing.”
“It is charming and refreshing to come across a book in which the brain and the heart are equally represented – though the vocal cords and especially the liver play large supporting roles as well!”
“This is an intoxicating tale of lessons learned; mishaps and success from a writer who I hope to see more of on my book shelf sometime in the near future.”
“I couldn’t put down this fast-paced, honest, young-at-heart memoir.”
“It’s hard to graduate college and find your place in a grown up world. It’s hard to move away from home. It’s hard to know yourself well enough to predict where you will be at the end of every road. This book is a story of teaching and partying in a small village in Taiwan, but it’s really a story of friendship, patience, and the best time ever.”
“Whether you are a soon to be or recent college grad, a 30 something looking to reminisce or reevaluate, or just looking for some great fun I highly recommend this book.”
“He (Abbey) takes those small, emotion packed moments in everyday life and makes you feel as though you are there experiencing it for yourself.”
“His reflections on traveling, food, meeting new people, and having new experiences are truly inspiring.”
“I highly recommend this book for anyone living abroad, future expats, and those looking for a change of perspective.”
And the Five-Star Reviews from Goodreads:
“This book will take the reader on a fun adventure, and I’d recommend it in particular for younger people who might like some insight into the post-college experience!”
“A great mix of funny uplifting moments, the heartbreak of growing up and moving out and internal conflict.”
“The author is easy to relate to and provides an exciting and honest account of a life-changing experience abroad.”
“You really felt like you were struggling and partying with the author and pulling for him. Highly recommended!”
I love editing; it makes manuscripts into cohesive stories. And it certainly made my book immensely better and more appealing for a vast audience. But in the process of editing, some really good stuff is throw to the floor for the greater good of the book. Rather than let these edited bits, pieces, and complete stories go to waste, I’m going to periodically post them here for anyone interested in reading more of the back stories to CBEP.
Chapter 1: Taiwan, a Bullfight, and an Abbey uses other parts of the edited piece copied below:
We, fresh and clean, having come straight from San Sebastian on the 8 p.m. bus, were entering an atmosphere we’d savored many times before – Spanish festivals; it was nothing new. Carnivale in Cadiz and Chipiona. Las Fallas in Valencia. Semana Santa and Feria in Seville. Even the milder Cruces de Mayo in Cordoba. We had and have always done our best to never miss a party or a cultural experience. Thankfully Spain offered both at once. And when we weren’t immersed in one of these extravagant expeditions, we filled our Seville nights with Flamenco, Bullfights, and Tapas crawls.
But here we were. Approaching a festival muy diferente. It had to be. It was the festival of legends: La Fiesta de San Fermines, el encierro, corriendo con los toros en Pamplona. We’d made it. We had really made it. After traveling the diagonal length of Europe in a week. A twenty-seven hour bus from Riga to Berlin. Two nights in Berlin. Overnight train to Paris. Two nights in Paris. Then the train to San Sebastian. Paris to San Sebastian? Actually, there is no such single train – that would have been too easy. An overnight from Paris to Bayonne. A connection from Bayonne, France to Irun, Spain, right on the border. And, finally, a commuter, slow-speed train from Irun to San Sebastian. We had made it.
We had really made it.
We’d made it to San Sebastian, secured and boarded our bus to Pamplona, and arrived at the holy festival that invites attendees to drink all night before running in front of six crazily pissed-off bulls and two herds of bullocks, the castrated bulls. They’re for calming their companions – possibly for guiding them also. Regardless, that adds up to a dozen 1000-1500lb wild animals with foot-long, curved and pointed horns running at full speed.
Have you ever seen a bull run at full speed? I know they’re enormous animals. They look like they might not be that fast. I thought this. Even imagined that maybe it would be possible to outrun one. This is a false and empty hope. It is absolutely not possible to outrun one. A bull running against a person, both running at full speed, will make that poor bastard look stationary.
The disadvantages to participating in such an event are clear from the outset. And that’s without considering the racecourse. I originally imagined a straightaway path. Straight? Oh, hell no. This is Europe. This is Spain. Straight streets don’t exist.
When I set out to write my memoir, I had no idea what I was doing. I’d just graduated college and had undergone a mind-bending year of life changing experiences. At twenty-three, I had a hard enough time writing reports and term papers. Taking on a project to write a cohesive and entertaining tale of selected exploits that would engage readers from the first to the final page wasn’t something that I was trained to do. But it was what I wanted to do, and desire is an extremely powerful tool.
And so I began with a straightforward starting point: I had over six hundred pages of handwritten journals. I transcribed these into a Word document and took notes along the way to help find separation within my stories. This note taking created the outline I needed as I began to see a sensible chronicle of my life in Taiwan.
Over the next three years, I worked on this version of my story, and as I did so, I also followed a regimental reading program to learn more about authors, writing, and what makes a great novel. I followed a four-book rotation: Classics, Modern Lit, Religion/History/Politics, and Other, which included Sociology, Grammar, and Biography and Memoir. The contrast between these genres taught me essentials to developing my own voice and writing style and advanced my grammar, sentence development, and storytelling skills. Additionally, I also learned a great deal about history, language, culture, and time’s changing effects as new eras redefine popularity and what is deemed “good.”
While I’d love to say that first draft was good, I’ll have to admit it was not. It was good for a first try though and after taking a few months off and getting some very important feedback from some professionals, I was able to step back and reassess my work.
Blogging is new to me. Although I’ve been writing all my life and have been reading other people’s blogs for years, I’ve never known where to start and my biggest deterrents have always been the same two questions:
- What can I write about on a weekly or daily basis?
- How would I ever keep it engaging?
For my purposes here, I think I’m going to overcome these questions by using diversified material. The main reason that I formed this site was to promote my new book, Cheers, Beers, and Eastern Promise. Previously, this book had been The Krasian Khronicles© and Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of the Best Time Ever©. Over the years, my story underwent three title changes, three very different drafts, countless revisions, and tons and tons of cuts. Rather than leave all of that work in the past, I’m going to utilize some of it here to highlight the life of my story and to give an example of how literature can change as it’s developed.
For starters, I’ll show the changes of my first paragraphs, but I need to give some background first. I’ve always understood that the first paragraphs of a novel are the most important, especially to the potential buyers. If the opening of a story is not engaging, why would anything that follows be worthwhile to read? And beyond this thought, the first line of a book can many times – particularly for a first time author – be the most important line of the entire work. As a first time author, this is how I viewed my first line, first paragraphs, and first chapter. Because of this, they faced intense scrutiny and underwent massive changes over the years. I’ve pasted them below so that you can see some of these changes.
In all of these versions, there were story-building ideas that I needed to express. I wanted to capture setting, character, and tone without overstating it so that the reader was curious to learn more and would continue reading. Number one was written in 2005. Number two was written in 2009. And number three was written in 2010. The 2010 version is very close to what ended up as my final draft, which I’ll leave in the book for now. Pick up a copy if you’re interested in seeing the final draft. I promise that if you like what you see here and throughout the rest of my website, you’ll be glad that you did.
1. It was 2005, two weeks into June, and I was on a solid stag of a motorcycle, both aged and proven. I rode down the windiest coast of stone and sand I could find. I looked out over the rising sun and endless ocean. I scaled mountains with howling winds in my ears and caught the sweet sea salt on my lips. And I crossed lush valleys, rose to barren peaks, and passed clouds of pillowy mist all to enter clear blue skies again. It was then that I began to think about how…
2. I-Lan County, Taiwan – It was 2005, two weeks into June, and I was on my solid stag of a motorcycle, both aged and proven. Six-thirty in the morning and I was driving the east coast highway from Luo Dong to Nanao, traversing this winding coast of stone and sand as I had so many times before over the previous eleven months. I looked out to the rising sun and saw an endless ocean. I scaled mountains against deafening winds – howling in my ears. I felt my thirst grow as my lips caught the sweet sea salt permeating the air.
Ahead, lush valleys rose to barren peaks, misty clouds rested upon naked roads, and blue skies patiently waited beyond it all. Cresting my highest pinnacle of the trip, I began to think about how…
3. Nanao, Taiwan – The clouds, once again, were below me. Riding my motorcycle, I looked down along sheer cliffs, through thin clouds, and into deep blue waves. The Pacific was churning. A thin, white froth highlighted the movements of the crashing waves. Even from so distant a perch, I could see them.
It was 2005, two weeks into June, and I was on my motorcycle, an eleven-year-old silver Honda – she was beautiful. We knew each other well. And, once again, she was leading me home.
Six-thirty in the morning and I was driving the east coast highway from Luo Dong to Nanao, traversing this winding coast of stone and sand as I had so many times before.
Looking out again, I saw the rising sun over this endless ocean and continued climbing higher up the mountains. The deafening winds began howling even louder, seeping through my helmet, beneath my hair, and into my ears. My thirst began to grow as my lips caught the sweet sea salt that permeated the air.
Ahead, lush valleys rose to barren peaks, misty clouds rested upon naked roads, and blue skies patiently waited beyond it all. Crossing over the last crest, I could see my path. I was going home.
©Gerald John Abbey
 I still think the opening line needs to be stronger (06/10/10)
I did it. I have to keep reminding myself: it’s finally done. Nine years. Six cities. Three drafts. And one published book. It’s complete. I’m complete. My greatest effort is over.
Writing a book is hard, especially when you want it to achieve many goals. I wanted to capture a broad readership: my friends, my family, and people who I’ve never met. I wanted everyone from my parents to fiancé to teachers to lonely travelers to librarians to professors to students to everyone and anyone to find not just enjoyment, but true value in reading my story – the value of perspective and reflection, adding their own take to the moments of life we all encounter.
From the feedback so far, I think I have achieved my goal – a goal I sometimes thought was impossible. Even completing my story didn’t seem possible on so many days. The emotional tax of writing wore on me. There were days where I just stared at the screen for hours with nothing to show for it. There were days I wrote for hours and then threw away everything I’d written because it didn’t add anything to the story I was telling; I’d detracted into yet another unrelated tale. And there were days that I looked up and looked back, and I saw that I couldn’t look forward because the view ahead was so murky and depressing; I didn’t know where I was going.
But there were other days too. There were days where I stood up at my desk after hours of straight, zoned-in writing and actually spiked the piles of papers next to me because I was that pumped up – that thrillingly excited about the words I’d just strung together. Those moments brought memories of sporting achievements from my past – such an odd contrast to feel that euphoria from the stage to the dimly lit office where I worked through early mornings and late nights.
But now I’m passed those ups and downs. My book is published, my story is complete, and now it’s time to market it in every way imaginable.