Speaker to Deliver a Toast to Writing
By Louise Continelli
NEWS STAFF REPORTER
November 01, 2009
NIAGARA FALLS—Award-winning author Clifford Fazzolari, who may be on the Joyce Carol Oates track if for sheer output alone, delivers the Saturday morning keynote talk during next weekend’s Toastmasters Communication and Leadership Conference, hosted by Toastmasters International in the Seneca Niagara Casino & Hotel.
Fazzolari, 45, has published nine books, fiction as well as nonfiction, with readers from around the world.
During the public conference, he and others will talk about how to add humor to your message and make it more memorable; how to stay motivated and keep your message alive and strong; how to make sure you and your life partner share the same message; how to find just the right opening for your message to hook your audience’s attention; and how to stand out as a leader by sharing your message.
Fazzolari’s an expert at all of the above, and more. He teams up with another keynote speaker, lawyer Michael Notaro, second vice president of Toastmasters International.
Fazzolari said he’s “thrilled” that Jill Kelly, co-founder of the Hunter’s Hope Foundation, is receiving the 2009 Communication and Leadership Award from Toastmasters District 65.
“She deserves it,” said the writer, whose book House of Miracles featured a foreword by Kelly.
You may have spotted Fazzolari, who lives in Blasdell, in Niagara County, where he wears his other hat—a white hard hat—during his “day job” as an insurance safety inspector. That’s what he was doing on a recent morning right before Q& A interviewed him:
Q. First, tell us about your “fallback” career?
A. I inspect construction sites in and around the Niagara Falls area.
I participated in the construction process during the erection of the Seneca Hotel. It’s always interesting to go back to visit the places when the construction is complete, sort of like putting a book together.
I once worked at one of the power plants in the Falls. My brother and I used to eat lunch every day in a park near the Falls, and we never got tired of looking at it.
Q. What will you be speaking about at the Toastmasters Conference?
A. Communication through the written and spoken word. I’m going to speak on why I sit down in a room alone, with the dogs snoring beside me, in an effort to put something down on paper that means something to someone else. Over the course of the last six months, I’ve struggled with my motivations. I’ve wondered how and why I continue to communicate. The ability to speak in front of the Toastmasters International gathering answered some of those questions for me. I plan on giving it my all. I have a lot to share.
I’m real honored to be the keynote speaker at the breakfast. And one thing’s for certain —nothing makes me prouder than being in The Buffalo News.
Q. Why Toastmasters?
A. Toastmasters is a truly wonderful organization that provides communication and leadership skills training to a wide audience. I want to help make it an even wider audience.
Q. What about addressing a conference?
A. It’s interesting, years ago I was asked to speak at a writers’ conference in Buffalo, and I followed a speaker who was sort of dry. I’d also written a dry speech but scrapped everything at the last minute in an attempt to get the audience to laugh.
I ended up doing about a half-hour of stand-up comedy on how difficult it is to get something published, how, at my first book-signing, I was all excited about being a “star,” but received only one inquiry, and that was from a young man, who, after picking up my book and reading the back page, promptly asked, “Do you know where the bathroom is, dude?”
My story’s always the same —that I live in a great part of the country where writing can flourish, and we can all make a difference in our own little way.
Through the years, many people have had the chance to hear me speak about why I write, how I write, and what it means to be published in this day and age. I’ve told my story many times to different audiences and have been really happy to answer all sorts of questions about the publishing business, working with an editor and an agent.
Yet this time for Toastmasters, I’m thrilled with the chance to speak because I’m going to have a different forum, and I’m going to be able to incorporate some new stories about communication and leadership.
You know writing has always been solitary. Many of the people I meet have no idea how the guy standing before them has written even one coherent sentence.
Q. Who’s your favorite author?
A. John Steinbeck.
Q. Favorite movie?
A. What else—The Grapes of Wrath.
Q. Your favorite Italian restaurant?
A. The Como.
Q. Tell us about your new book published this year, Blind Spot?
A. It’s a book written in honor of a friend of mine who had lost his child to a tragic accident.
Q. Is it true you’ve had your own brush with tragedy this year?
A. I lost my brother and best friend, Jeff, early in the year. He suffered a stroke at the age of 38, leaving a wife and three children behind.
Q. How was your birthday?
A. My 45th birthday [last month was] special. My wife and kids presented me with a gold chain that now holds an “Italian horn” that my brother wore around his neck for a lot of years. I don’t wear any jewelry whatsoever. I’ve never really even owned a watch, but I’m wearing a gold chain now— and for the rest of my life.
Registration for workshops for the conference costs $25, or $100 for the full conference, including meals. To register online, visit http://d65conference.eventbrite. com or call Melinda Schmidt at 825-4739.
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