At Penguicon, I was enpaneled. I noticed not-new truths about myself. Uncomfortable truths that I've known since the days I did children's theater.
1) In a performance/public speaking/social setting, I am able to be lively and provide energy when I feel comfortable or authoritative or at least at the same hierarchical level as the others in the room. Depending on the level of comfort and the level of authority I feel I possess, I can provide the lion's share of the energy, if need be. I call this facet of my personality the Hostess, though that may be inadequate as labels go. That would be my extrovert side.
2) In a performance setting, etc., setting, if I feel that I am in the role of supplicant or am uncomfortable, I can only reflect the energy of those around me. If there's an awesome, high-energy person sitting next to me, I can play to that (*cough* Doselle Young *cough*). If there's not--if, for example, the high energy person is kind of crazy, or the rest of the panel is sincerely non-enthusiastic, then I end up being unenthusiastic with them. Usually the results aren't so dramatic; middling performance is common. I call this facet of my personality the Chameleon.
I would like to be able to only bring the Hostess to conventions with me, but sadly, I always seem to get both into the suitcase. And honestly, they're both sides to my personality; I am often able to match tone, but rarely get the chance to set it, except amongst the people who--in all honesty--let me. The Chameleon is extremely useful in regular life. I'm not sure she's useful in public speaking.
Most memorably for me was the time that I was leading an undergrad library orientation session. It is not easy to make the library sound GREAT, especially when we were then mandated to give a strong lecture on plagiarism. But I had some really good sessions, because I warmed them up with fun facts about the library, including the fact that our library at the time had been voted Ann Arbor's number one place to pick someone up. Attentiveness! I cracked wise, told library anecdotes, slipped in the whole lecture on plagiarism like the proverbial medicine that goes with the spoonful of sugar, and had opened up to a rousing Q&A session. THEN--a librarian walked in to hear the end of my presentation. I lost about 50% of my energy immediately, as I was frightened I'd been too loose and perhaps not protective of the library's reputation in some of my stories.
(In vindication land, though, I once had orientation leaders stop me on the Diag and congratulate me on not being boring. Also, 50% of my energy caused the librarian who came in, to later compliment me in a reference meeting as being Not Boring. So, I could be overestimating the necessity of me getting my full extrovert on.)
So, anyway. I need to work on that stuff.
I saw the million people with the million usernames that one sees, but the highlights of the con were:
1) I petitioned Doselle Young to adopt me as his snarky sidekick after the Character Death panel. Also, the end of the panel was very typical of the level of fun we were having. Josh (defectivewookie) was moderating, and asked us for our final thoughts on character death. Doselle raised his hands to the heavens and shouted "KILLLLL!!!!" I looked at the crowd and said, "As necessary." We did get into the discussion of why one kills characters, but I doubt it was new material to the crowd. The best part was discussing characters that SHOULD be dead, because that was a much more interesting exercise than picking apart bad/good character deaths.
2) Mary Robinette and I talked actual writing, which never seems to happen to me at conventions, and by gum, I'm going to start a support group for writers who want to talk writing at conventions, or something. But it took her saying, "I talked shop!" for me to go "I want to talk shop, too!" and led to us staying awake even longer when we should've been asleep.
3) I proposed a relatively flaky panel idea (What makes a golden age? --specifically referencing the golden ages of YA and TV that we may or may not be in right now), and Sarah Monette made it work, and work well. (BTW, she pretty much answered the question all alone, and in a way that made me buy it: a golden age comes after the establishment of a genre, so that people who grow up loving the genre can take it seriously and begin a dialogue with the source materials; sometimes, so-called silver ages are much more interesting than golden ages, because there's even more interesting dialogue with the previous material; the modern modes of communication make it possible to have a golden age and a silver age sort of concurrently; there's a certain level of notoriety and/or popularity of a thing to have a golden age.)
4) daveamongus usually manages to remind me at conventions why he's one of my favorite people ever. This time was no exception. Dave Klecha: a man you want on your side. Not the other side. Not the dark side. YOUR side.
5) Traveling sans posse is both sad and ridiculously freeing.
6) Anne Harris and I had a very intense conversation about good agents and bad, and the future of m/m and erotic fiction examined from a purely mercenary standpoint. My takeaway is: you probably could make a living at writing short stories, if they were erotic male/male pieces put out by publishers like Loose Id. Given that I stumble across a "can you make a living at short fiction?" conversations every so often, and the answer always seems to be, "No, YOU can't, and no one has since pretty much Harlan Ellison." But there is a plausibly different answer to this in the m/m erotic genre, or could be. Of course, I do not have the slightest interest in delving into that genre, so that's right out, but it's still food for thought. (Also, I am doing better with books than I dreamed possible, so I'm gonna leave "making a living at short stories" for someone else to dream.)
And about a million other things, really.
I've been two days writing this post, and it's never going to get done if I try to include everything. I had SUCH a good time this year.