Jane Remembers Dick
Sunday Fiction Feature: The Haunting of Annie Whipple: Part III

Smart Man Online: Gerry Murak

Dear readers, our Smart Man Online today is a very special person. We met him through a mutual friend and colleague who knew of our commitment to blogging. Manish (a Smart Man Online himself, not so long ago), introduced us to Gerry Murak in the hopes that we could help Gerry start a blog. The purpose of that blog is the focus of this interview. Gerry Murak, of Murak & Associates, LLC, a firm that offers international business services and consulting, is one of those men who exudes generosity and sincerity.

We met Gerry at a bookstore (of course!) and he talked and talked and told us wonderful stories of his father, and growing up in the mid-20th century. We learned about the project Manish had mentioned to us, in more detail that day, sitting at the small table in the bookstore, spilling coffee, enjoying our pastries, conversing as if we had the rest of our lives to sit there.

Gerry was everything marketers and PR folks are talking about today-- he was transparent. His enthusiasm for this book project, this emotional dedication to his dad and to all dads everywhere, spilled over onto the table, flowing onto the floor, and across the carpet. It was invisible to the naked eye, but surely, we felt, everyone in the room feels it-- the power of love.

Gerry's project, for which he did build a blog, is called Our Fathers Who Art in Heaven. You may get a sneak preview of the book at his blog. Please read on. We know you will be as enthralled as we were...

Lip-sticking: First of all, Gerry, tell our readers the history behind this monumental project.

Gerry: Jane (or Yvonne, I'm not sure what to call you), this project has been years in the making. It goes back at least 14 years, to when I first began Murak & Associates. Let me just tell you and your readers that memories of my Dad are a living part of my life, every day. The Our Fathers Who Art in Heaven book is a small tribute to a man who meant so much to me. His influence-- one thing he instilled in me was the principle that one should "always leave things better than you find them"-- has guided me and supported me in everything I do, from how I make a living, to how I treat my wife, and even how I approach each day.

My dad was such a wealth of inspiration, I couldn't help but talk about him, again and again, whenever I was asked to speak at conferences or seminars. People began to look forward to my stories about my Dad. After awhile, it occured to me that my Dad might not be as unique as I thought. Maybe other folks had great dads that they talk about all the time, also.

So, I got this great idea-- to put together a book of essays on Dads. I can tell you, as much work as it's been, it's also been a joy. This book is my attempt to give something back to the world-- to leave it better than I found it, if you will.

Lip-sticking: Wow, Gerry! (You may call us Jane or Yvonne, it doesn't matter). We've heard many of your Dad stories, but, perhaps you could share one with our readers.

Gerry: The story I tell most often, and one I told at an NSA (National Speakers Association), meeting not so long ago is the story of the shovel. It's in the sneak preview book... I hope your readers will visit the blog and read it for themselves. Let me, instead, tell you what I told the NSA members at that meeting a year ago.

I am a member of NSA, so I was at their national conference a year ago when I was suddenly, unexpectedly asked to speak. I am not a prominent public speaker, although I have certainly done my share of presentations, so this left me a bit nervous. I asked the man next to me what to do and he said, "You've got to go on stage and give a speech." Extemporaneously.

Even as I walked up to the lectern, my mind raced with confusion. What to talk about...how to engage this large group of attendees without putting them to sleep...what could I ever say that would interest them?

I took a deep breath and began, "I want to tell you a story about being in the men's room a few moments ago," I said. There was laughter, then silence. "You're probably wondering why I would tell you this story but...as I was waiting in line -- a unique thing for the gentelmen here, we seldom need to wait in line like the ladies do -- I noticed that the bathroom was somewhat unkempt. By that, I mean, there were paper towels all over the floor. Out of habit, I grabbed a handful of clean paper towels and scooped up the dirty ones off of the floor and I put them where they belonged-- in the trash."

I paused then, to let folks get the image in their minds. "I did this, ladies and gentlemen, because my father taught me to always leave things better than I found them. It's ingrained in my soul. And now, I want to tell you a story about my father..."

Well, Jane, I went on to tell the story of the shovel, just as it appears in the Our Fathers Who Art in Heaven preview book. When I was done, there wasn't a dry eye in the house. THAT's when I truly knew I had something, something of Ourfathersbook immense value, something the world would take to heart. So, when I came home from that NSA meeting, I started OFWAIHF.org (oaf-waif): the Our Fathers Who Art in Heaven Foundation. And, I began putting the book together, starting with my very own story.

Lip-sticking: What a marvelous story! That brings us to the book-- everyone knows Jane is passionate about books. Tell us about your book experience.

Gerry: Well, the book has been a monumental project. I immediately had a website built, added it to the search engines, and began requesting stories from interested folks. This book is NOT about me and my Dad exclusively.

It's about ALL Dads. It's about remembering our dads that have passed, and writing down their stories so they don't get lost in the passage of time. So far we have received 120 stories from 8 countries.

Lip-sticking: So, why build a blog if you already have a website?

Gerry: That's a good question. The easy answer is: I was told that a blog would attract more traffic and get more stories. So far, that hasn't really happened. I'm not a very technical person and I'm working on developing the blog into a better marketing vehicle, but, it requires more attention than I have to give it right now. I have a terrific young man, an intern, working with me now to help the blog get more visibility and to work out the kinks, so to speak.

I know that the blog has untapped potential, I'm just not sure how to capture it. Now, the other answer-- the harder one -- is that this book is so important to me and so close to my heart, that I want to be sure to use every marketing tool I can, within a reasonable cost, to help gather the stories we want for the book. Truth is, this book is meant to continue with a complete series...from year to year. We are also planning to start an Our Mothers Who Art in Heaven.

Lip-sticking: Sounds like a lot of work. How are you producing this masterpiece?

Gerry: A lot of work is an understatement. I never realized how much work putting a book together could be. Luckily, I've had expert help. Before meeting you, I was introduced to Cameo Publications and the folks there have gone out of their way to be helpful. We're producing 1000 softcover books to begin with, then we will go to a print on demand model.

Lip-sticking: Sounds like a solid plan. We know a number of folks writing books now who are looking at the print on demand model. But, we're curious-- are you including ALL the stories you receive in your book, or, will you be selective?

Gerry: Early on we realized that we needed to be careful about what to add to the book. We appreciate all the stories that have come to us, some of them are truly touching. But, of course, not all could be included in the book. In order to develop something that maintains the focus of Our Fathers Who Art in Heaven, we organized a review process. The review process screens each story, makes a decision on how much editing it needs (and whether or not it's actually acceptable for this book), develops separate piles according to criteria we've decided on, and...ultimately, chooses the actual stories for the book. We whittled the 120 down to 44 for this first book.

Lip-sticking: We wonder how your wife, Barbara, feels about all of this?

Gerry: My wife has been a major help. I could not have accomplished any of this without her. Barbara is a talented artist -- she creates fiber art-- and her creativity and insight was a key part of putting all of this together. With her by my side, I feel like I can do anything.

Lip-sticking: Are you still accepting submissions to the book?

Gerry: The first printing is scheduled for April and the contributors will be able to purchase the book at a discount. So, this book is full, but we are definitely accepting submissions for book two. It's funny, we haven't even announced it but we're already getting submissions for Our Mothers Who Art in Heaven! I also want to someday do Our Brothers and Our Sisters.

Lip-sticking: Jane sees a bright future for you, Gerry. This idea has tremendous merit. We know our readers are going to want to contribute. Keep us in the loop and let us know when the first book is out. We would like to announce it here!Gerrym

Gerry: I will do that, Jane. It's been a pleasure talking with you. Please tell your readers to visit the blog and view the sneak preview for themselves.

Lip-sticking: You just did, Gerry. Best of luck on this project. We'll be keeping our eye on you!


There you have the best of it, dear readers. A chance to share your family stories-- stories that should be shared with others, now, before they are forgotten.

What's not to like about that?


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