As a result of the World Fantasy Convention, I made some realizations and resolutions:
There's always a next level of accomplishment. Newbie writers are in awe of the panelists. Panelists who are currently releasing book five in a series are in awe of those who have multiple series. Those writers are in awe of Mercedes Lackey. ... and Jane Yolen has topped Isaac Asimov's record, so I am not sure that anyone is insane enough to want to be Jane Yolen, but everyone respects her.
You could take this as a depressing thing, I suppose: it's impossible to ever feel you've "made it." Or you could take it as a positive thing: there are always new challenges ... and more importantly, no matter how high the peaks above you, there's someone looking up at *you* in awe of how far you've come.
2. Personal visibility and "brand" - even if it is simply the personality of the writer - help attract attention to books. I had resolved this in the past and fell away from it, but this time I mean it: the next time I decide to attend a conference, I will be applying to be on a panel.
And what is my brand? I've been chewing on it. I write such a broad range it definitely doesn't tie to a specific subgenre. I think a mythic element is the common thread, even if the story itself doesn't reference gods and higher powers or retell mythology. Scylla and Charybdis pretty much illustrates what I'm talking about: there are passing references to myth throughout (... besides the title, of course).
And purple. Because really, everything is purple.
Forcing myself into parties is never going to work. I really do just hover around like a loon and steal food, because food makes me feel better. This actually ties into the previous point - attending panels, meeting people that way, is also an opportunity to make acquaintances and form ties that I would be too shy to make with cold contact.
On the other hand, I would be ... well, I don't want to oversell myself and say that I would be comfortable being a panelist, of course I'd be shaky-nervous, but that particular kind of public speaking is something I'm very comfortable with. It comes of many years of harp performance and giving talks on the history of the music and instrument, as well as teaching ... and, believe it or not, working a carving station in catering work. You have to have many quick, friendly conversations with people in passing while performing a physical task - which was the hard part for me, given as talking tends to consume the rest of my brain space.
In light of that, sitting on a panel doesn't seem overly intimidating, as long as I know that I have something worthwhile to say.
I also made a decision about my next novel project: I am going to take the plunge and work on my Helen of Troy tale. It lies somewhere between an inspired-by and a retelling (I will explain in more detail in another post). It does hit all three major reasons to do a retelling, according to the panelists I heard last weekend: there are connected stories I love; others that really annoy me and beg for rethinking; and so many unanswered questions and apparent contradictions.
I am only about 11,000 words into Surgeburnt and this concept requires a lot of research and some refreshing of my mythological memory, so I am guessing it will be a year at minimum before I start writing ... but the long-term goal, the desire to get it right, energizes me. I'm looking forward to it.