Thoughts and more

Well that was different….

What an absolute difference a week makes. One week ago I was a guest at a small fan-run convention. The day after I get home I find out that I would be working at Wizard World Cleveland that coming weekend. These cons are completely different beasts and man was I going to find that out by jumping headfirst into it.

I found out officially that I was going to be a vendor, as well as presenting on the creative stage, literally the Monday before the con. Oops. Guess I wasn’t going to have time to request of time from work for the con itself or load-in times. This required some real rearranging of my schedule, a lot of leaning on good friends for help, and a definitely some flexibility. Yikes.

Luckily, somehow, everything seemed to end up working out. Staff with the con was super great at making sure my info got up on their site almost immediately and it looked so smooth and sleek. Check-in with Wizard World was easy and efficient as well. I didn’t really see too much of con staff during the weekend…but I guess that’s ok.

One thing I really noticed about large cons like Wizard World over the smaller cons is that everything is up and running right away. Gates open and attendees pour in. Definitely no time to really acclimate to the situation, you’re just in it. But as a vendor, that’s what you want; feet in the aisles and eyes on your merchandise.

I was located in LGBT Alley, which is a new and growing feature of Wizard World conventions championed by fellow cosplayer and good friend, Alexa Heart. It’s an area of the con dedicated to LGBT and LGBT-friendly vendors. Often I find small cons to have an emphasis on diversity and inclusion and despite the seemingly open atmosphere cons have, there isn’t always a safe place for our LGBT friends. It was a super friendly area to be a part of and I really look forward to what Wizard World may do with the area in the future. Trust me, there’s a need. I really loved my aisle mates and we had a blast even in the slow times. Definitely need to work on my booth set-up though, which is fine for smaller cons or craft shows, but tended to get lost in the massive booths around me.

Now did I say I presented on the creative stage too? Oh yes, I did. So yeah, that was pretty neat. I got to present my wig care panel and I love teaching people about wigs. I always feel like I get to help remove some of the mystery of wig wearing and styling and hopefully getting someone closer to living their wig life to the fullest. Ok that sounds dramatic, but seriously, wigs are intimidating. If I can help someone feel more confident about cutting or just wearing a wig, I feel like I’m actually providing the cosplay community with the lessons I want to be more available to all cosplayers.  That’s what I really love to do.

It was definitely a whirlwind of a two weeks for me, but I am so incredibly glad that I had the opportunities that have come my way. And now I’m going to go pass out for the entirety of this weekend.

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Cleveland ConCoction or How I learned to stop caring about the size of the vendor room and embrace the small con

My first con was Wizard World (in its infancy as a touring con) and I was absolutely blown away by the size. It was so cool to see so many geek things in one place; things that up to that point I hadn’t really been able to find outside of a comic shop. It was so exciting. To be honest, it could have been the worst con in the world, but since it was my first time in such a big space, it was the world to me.

My second con was Chicago TARDIS, a single-fandom con focused solely on Doctor Who. What a complete difference from my first con. It was smaller and more intimate. I spent more time in panels than the dealer’s room (don’t worry though, I left with too much merch anyways). I enjoyed evening programming like karaoke and dancing. It was definitely a whole new perspective on what cons could be. And by the way, it was massive fun.

Since then my con-going career kept going and going. I have been to Cleveland ConCoction 4 times, 3 times as a guest and once as a featured panelist. In those times, I’ve grown to love the con so much. Like my time at Chicago TARDIS, the programming is spectacular. All day long there is something to attend from author panels to comedy presentations and so much more. There is tons to learn from professional guests and panelists who attend in the various subject areas and those guests are also available to chat in between at their tables.

Beyond the excellent programming, small cons like ConCoction allow attendees to form fast friendships and develop a con family of sorts. My years at the con have introduced me to some of the coolest people I would probably not otherwise have the chance to meet. They’ll come to my panels, workshops and chat at my table. It’s amazing. And it’s not just happening to me because I have been a guest. The amount of hugs I saw go around before everyone headed home at the end of con on Sunday was amazing. So much love to go around to people who have just days before (or years before for annual attendees) been total strangers.

I have also been fortunate enough to see this con grow over several years. There have been different approaches to programming over the years and a move to a larger, rambling hotel (ok, it seems really rambling. My room felt like 5 miles from the lobby, but ended up just down the hall from most of the con stuff). Oh and there’s this annex building to the hotel which I kind of thought might be a bit of a pain, but it housed most of the gaming. It was pretty cool to see the gamers have that much room dedicated to just themselves….and a food truck.

My absolute favorite thing I’ve experienced in my capacity has been seeing the cosplayers grow and compete. I’ve seen cosplayers take their first tentative steps in an environment they perceive as safe to getting their first offers to become cosplay guests themselves. That’s so fulfilling. To know you’ve had any impact on someone’s growth as a cosplayer is so incredible.

As for that vendor room? Small cons have great vendors as well. Sure their booths might not be 25 feet tall with enclosed shopping, but you’re going to get a great personalized shopping experience. Expect lots of local geek businesses and an emphasis on bolstering smaller businesses.

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Am I ghosting my own blog?

Oh geez, guys. I’m not ghosting you. I haven’t abandoned my blog. I promise. HOWEVER! I have been busy getting myself ready for the upcoming Cleveland ConCoction. I’ve got a lot of work to finish up, but I’m hoping to be good to go soon. So please enjoy my older posts or check out my day to day updates on Instagram @nerdgirlcosplay

The Real Life Implications of Cosplay is not Consent

Last week, I was just casually scrolling through my social media and a friend had posted a video from his hotel room at Anime LA. It was a massive car fire that had caused several other cars to burn and the evacuation of parts of two hotels. No information was available when I saw the video…but I knew there would be. Something about it didn’t sit right.

The next day the information came in a flood. Arson. The car was intentionally torched. Seven cars in total were destroyed. The suspect was arrested quickly and was well known by the victim. According to the victim, she had known the suspect for years. In fact, she said her car was “targeted and set on fire by an obsessed stalker.” She had turned down this man’s advances and this is the price she paid for it.

So what does this all mean? The Cosplay is not Consent movement has been active for years and yet cosplayers are still facing harassment or serious consequences for turning people down. This is unacceptable. I don’t know how much clearer this can be: cosplayers (I’m going to use cosplayers and women interchangeably at this point. Men do face harassment and retaliation as well. I don’t want to diminish that, but this is particular situation is a huge fear of so many women and I need that to be clear) are not your property. They don’t owe you anything; not even a response to your DM or a photo at a con.

Women are generally pretty terrified of turning men down. I know there’s probably some men reading this that find that absurd. But seriously, just google “woman murdered for turning down a date.” There’s…a lot. There was a school shooting just last year in which this was the motivation. Receiving comments or messages on social media sometimes sends a little ping of anxiety through us because we never know where it will lead.

I want to put the responsibility on the men who take it upon themselves to violate someone’s sense of safety. But apparently no matter how we talk about it, they still think Cosplay is not Consent is a joke.  I’m not giving up, but I definitely want to make sure bystanders understand their role. Tolerating inappropriate and aggressive behavior makes us all complicit. So please, first, start believing women when they say something. When friends don’t, it only isolates someone and makes them more vulnerable to a harasser.

Most importantly, we need to make sure we express that this behavior isn’t appropriate. Call it out online and at cons. When you see a friend taking things too far, pull them back. Insist that cons have serious anti-harassment rules and the security to enforce it (not just some guy working for a free badge). Speak up.

I don’t know if we can ever totally change this or prevent future terrifying incidents. But we can sure try. Anything is better than the status quo.

If you would like to contribute to the victim of the arson and help her replace her car, please visit her gofundme.

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I don’t wanna grow up

I watched Adam Savage’s TED Talk about cosplay again last night. I’m sure there are like a billion blogs about that lecture, but I think I’m going in a different direction so give me a few. Savage discusses falling in love with the armor from Excalibur and a mass-produced Halloween costume from Jaws . I’ve discussed how I got into cosplay, but watching this prompted me to think further about it…like into my childhood and how that got me here. Mostly though, it made me think about how I just never want to grow up.

I remember my friend’s mom asking me what I wanted to be when I grow up. I think I was in kindergarten at the time. Without hesitation, I gave my answer, “A rabbit.” She laughed at me and told me I couldn’t be a rabbit. I mean, we were told we could be anything we wanted to be when we grow up. I didn’t get it. And I guess I still don’t get it. I want to be whatever I want to be.

What it all boils down to for me is that I never wanted to grow up. I mean I pay bills, go to work, and all that fun stuff. I adult the best I can. And I’m getting old. Man, I am like ancient in the cosplay world. But what is old to me? It’s not really an age. As cliche as it may sound, it’s really a state a mind. It’s losing that wonder and fun that life can bring. It’s closing your mind off to possibilities. It’s thinking that your numerical age defines what and who you are.

As a kid, I remember being so proud of my Halloween costumes that my mom made. I remember looking forward every year to the costumes for my dance recital. Those costumes made me feel so glamorous and exotic, like I was from another planet or at least Broadway. Those costumes took me somewhere. To a large extent, that’s what cosplay still does for me. When I put a costume on for the first time my adrenaline starts pumping. I get so excited. I might not exactly feel like I’m from somewhere exotic, but I definitely feel like I’m somewhere that isn’t just adult life.

In addition to the ability to escape, which as an adult type person is really wonderful, the actual making of cosplay is super important to keeping my mind active. When you’re young, like teenager young, for some reason you think adulthood is going to be dinner parties and fancy stuff. A lot of doing stuff. Secret: I’ve found it’s a lot of…boring. Most adults are too tired or busy with boring stuff like bills to challenge themselves. But cosplay does that for me. It keeps me problem solving and researching and learning and exploring.

So yeah, I’m gonna avoid getting old as long as I can. I’m gonna keep dressing up like superheroes and cartoon characters. I’m going to keep that world of whimsy and wonder in my life. I suggest you try it too. Don’t turn into an old person…they don’t even get memes.

ill-always-be-a-toys-r-us-kid

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Guest Announcement Coming at Ya!

I’ve been asked by the awesome people who run Cleveland Concoction to come back as a guest this year! And of course I said yes. I love this con and getting to return as a guest is so, so, so exciting. Concoction is a totally volunteer and fan run convention that has everything you’d want out of your con experience. Tons of gaming and amazing programming tracks to keep your entire family or geek family busy all weekend. Filk, fantasy, art, writing, it’s all here.

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I’ve had the pleasure of being a guest at Concoction a few times before and it’s been a blast watching this con grow, so I’m extra excited to be going back after they’ve relocated to a new home. I know we all have different tastes and expectations from cons, but by far my favorite kind of con is the small intimate fan-run con where you can bump into guests at any moment and have a great conversation. And no matter what you leave the weekend feeling like you have an entirely new family. This is that kind of con.

I’m especially excited because Concoction has let me offer a workshop. If you’re interested in a new hobby, stop by for my needle felting workshop. It’ll be super fun and you’ll end up with supplies to take with you at the end of class. So what is needle felting? It’s the art of combining wool fibers to create cool art. Honestly, it’s the most fun you’ll have repeatedly stabbing something and not getting arrested. I love it. Check out some samples of my work. And that’s all done with wool. Pretty neat.

If you’re interested in attending my workshop, sign ups are now! Check out the registration information and get yourself signed up. Space is limited and filling up!

Con Crunch….not as good as Cap’n Crunch

The good old land of procrastination. It’s a comforting place for most of us cosplayers. We thrive a bit on the thrill and pressure of working towards an upcoming con. Deadlines are a great bit of self-imposed pressure in the cosplay world, but it’s also been the cause of so much burn out. Let’s just delve into the good, the bad and the burnout.

We should be honest here. We all procrastinate. I think it’s a fairly normal thing. Part of the reason for this is that we’re prioritizing things. Many times that outing with friends or family or completely rearranging your kitchen is higher on your list of things to do than making the pattern for the cosplay you need for a con in 3 months. You gotta do those things. Making sure your bills are paid or that you have clean clothes for work this week are important reasons to put other things off. Don’t freak out about it.

During these times that you are putting off the work you need to do for your cosplay can also be beneficial to your cosplay. Often we need a little bit of time and separation from the project to come up with the best ideas for it. Procrastinating can allow you to think through your creative problems. Your first and immediate response how you will make your cosplay might not be the best and allowing some time before you begin work can lead you to a better solution.

A little procrastination is pretty beneficial for a lot of people, but once we start pushing it to the extreme…that’s were the burnout comes from. Pushing yourself too close to the due date can definitely lead to making a lot of the wrong choices. We know that hot gluing our cosplays isn’t the best way to make them, but when you run out of time you’re more likely to make the choice to do that. The more we make these time-saving decisions the more likely we’re to run into the next two issues; our cosplays falling apart and some massively negative feelings towards our work. It’s a dead end for our mental health.

The negative consequences of procrastination doesn’t end with us personally. Putting off our own work, whether in the workplace or in cosplay, will often create more work and stress for others. In a group situation, putting off your part of the cosplay will ultimately mean someone else needs to work overtime to make up for it. Or consider this…not only will you be having an awful time dragging your sewing machine to a con and working until 4am, but your whole room will now have to try to sleep through your sewing that is if they haven’t kindly offered to stay up and keep you company or offering help.

So what do we do? We’re all going to procrastinate, but you’ve got to work with that knowledge. Give yourself small  and reasonable goals like finish styling your wig this week. That gives you a whole week to work on it and you can prioritize as needed. Finishing a wig in a week is doable, but finishing the entire cosplay in a week….probably isn’t. Don’t promise more than you know you can finish. I personally have a cosplay planned that I know I can’t complete to its entirety the first time I want to wear it. But I know I can get it to a good presentable place by the time I need to wear it and then I have plenty of time to add more details as I get close to the next time I’ll wear it.

Please remember you can say no to things you know you can’t complete. I know we want to do it all, but knowing when you can’t is much better for your mental health. It’s also important to know when do put something away because you can’t finish it in a week. It’s way better to rewear a cosplay that’s already finished than to attempt to hot glue a whole cosplay in a week. Put the hot glue down. Back away. You’ll be way happier when you can come back and finish that costume properly.

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