Thursday night, September 22, 2016, I landed at Houston's Hobby International Airport and met my volunteer driver from the NF4NF team, Balaka Ghosal.
Balaka had a warm smile and a face beaming with kindness and intelligence. She put me at ease instantly, then introduced me to the couple who would be riding with me, Jeff and Nancy Sanders, and I realized I'd noticed Nancy before.
As she walked past me on the flight from Las Vegas to Houston, I noticed that Nancy, like Balaka, had an infinitely warm smile -- and a really neat t-shirt. Her husband was just as kind.
I thought, something rare was about to happen. And I was right.
Earth mother and author Pat Miller had invited me to be a part of the NF4NF Conference, so I'd been adopted into a very special writing family -- the tribe of Neffers.
I've done other conferences before, many of them, like Highlight's legendary Chautauqua events were exceptional. But there was something about this intimate gathering in Rosenberg, Texas that drew warm people like moths to a life giving flame. That something was the tone Pat Miller so clearly set.
We were all equals, and we were all at the conference for the exact same reason -- to share what we had with one another. The workshop teachers -- Pat Miller, Candace Fleming, Peggy Thomas, Nancy Sanders and I may have been a little better published than some of the conferees, but that wasn't the point. The point was, we all cared about writing nonficton, and we all wanted to do better. We were there to elevate the art form and each other.
By lunch Friday, I had more than 30 new friends. When I left Sunday I had a new family.
If ever you have the chance to join Pat Miller's Neffer family, don't hesitate. You'll learn a lot about succeeding in the world of nonfiction writing and you'll understand, in the realm of Neffers, you're never alone.
Thank you, Pat and all my Neffer friends. I am beyond grateful for you all.