Note: If anything seems a little stilted, it's because I've edited these for brevity. Apologies. :)
From Marsi in Vancouver:
"Just wanted to let you know that I went to my first con yesterday. It was amazing!!!! I couldn't believe how fun it was and all we did was walk around and look at / photograph costumes (and maybe do a bit of shopping). The best part was having little girls come up and ask to have their picture taken with me (I was Cruella de Vil). My heart melted each time it happened and I might have teared up. I think I need to quit my job and work at Disney as a character actor."
"I felt like a bit of a celebrity w/ all the people who would yell out 'Cruella!' as I walked by them, and in one case I heard the Cruella theme song being sung."
(Hee! She really does have one of the best theme songs.)
From Ula K. in Poland:
"Greetings from Poland!
"I know how you appreciate it when readers tell you that you've encouraged them to go to a convention or try cosplaying for the first time, so I'm proud to tell you that this is my story, too. I've always been too shy, especially around crowds, to go to a con. However, reading the 'success stories' on Epbot, and seeing the gorgeous photos that your readers shared, made me gradually build up some courage. Then I saw your amazing Lady Vadore costume, and it set off something in me.
"It gave me an idea: to appear as a SW character... with a Disney twist. And that's how the 'Darth Vader taken over by Ursula from the Little Mermaid' idea came to life."
"...it's still far from final; I want to add more details and reinvent some of them altogether, based on the great tips the 'professionals' gave me (they approached me on their own, saying they wanted pictures for their website, which was a HUGE ego boost!).
"P.S. After the convention, I was so encouraged by the kind words I heard that I'm already planning my next costume, so I'll be sure to update you when I finish it!"
From Carina in Germany:
"I’m a 27 year old geek girl from Germany. I’ve been following your blog for quite some time now, and I wanted to say thank you for all the awesome stuff that you write.
"I don’t want to bother you with all the details of my mental illnesses – for now it’s enough to say that I’m very introverted and really shy, and I sometimes get panic attacks when I’m surrounded by lots of people. Even going to the supermarket can be a bit of a challenge to me.
"So, going to a fair or convention is not easy for me, although I love to look at all the stuff. But this weekend, I managed to go to a con (Role Play Convention in Cologne) in costume! Your posts about cons, costumes and your anxiety attacks have been an inspiration.
"At first, I couldn’t decide if I should really go in costume, because it was supposed to become a steampunk costume (and all the steampunky details have yet to be added), and I wasn’t sure if I would be able to handle the attention – or if anybody would even like it at all. Plus the costume is green and I usually only wear black."
(Carina made this all herself, too!)
"You know what? It was great! I got asked for pictures so many times that I lost count. People approached me, asked me if I made the costume myself and I got lots of compliments! I did not have to say much, only pose for the cameras and smile."
"Such an awesome experience and a real boost for my confidence.
"To all shy persons, I can really recommend going in costume. You don’t have to go out of your comfort zone too much, because people will come to you. It is so much easier to talk to people if you don’t have to make the first step."
From Alyssa (also in Vancouver):
"I wanted to thank you for telling your readers about your anxiety, and sharing your stories about it. It made me feel like maybe I could go to a con. (One of my biggest dreams is to go to San Diego Comic-Con one day. One little problem with that: I get anxious in crowds.)
"Enter my boyfriend. He's a HUUUUGE Marvel/Disney fan (we met at the Disney store where I work) and when he heard that Stan Lee was coming to the Vancouver Fan Expo he begged to go. I was nervous at first because I didn't think I could handle a super crowded room for that long. Then I re-read some of your entries and it made me feel like I should just go. And so I did!
Alyssa chillin' with a Witch King at the con
"My boyfriend definitely helped me out, he made sure he walked in front of me to part the crowd (he's over 6 feet tall, it works) and was always making sure I felt comfortable or if I needed to leave the main room to go into the adjoining - much emptier - hallway. I did feel anxious a couple times (it was wall to wall people) but I didn't feel overwhelmed. And I got to meet some awesome people! James Marsters, Stan Lee, David Proust, and Elvira were all there. We got pictures with the 501st as well.
"It was a really awesome two days that I don't know if I could have handled without knowing that others can as well. So thank you."
From Alice G. in San Diego:
"I just went to my first ever convention this weekend (May 3-5) and, happily enough, it was a steampunk one right in the area I live! I couldn't go all three days, but I was able to go to the Steam Powered Giraffe concert on Friday and I spent most of Saturday wandering the merchant hall.
"I've been to quite a few of Steam Powered Giraffe's shows and they're always such a blast. But I started actually dressing up to go to them, and this weekend I went as my fanbot, Cricket, who is a music box doll robot-thingy."
Alice with Hatchworth of SPG
"I had a lot of people comment on the makeup and my dress and a few took pictures! I wasn't expecting or prepared for that, but it was fun!
"Anyway, I just wanted to tell you a little about my awesome experience this weekend and to thank you for sharing your stories and encouraging us readers to try to push out of our insecurities and comfort zones. I'm extremely introverted and suffer from crowd anxiety and I don't think I would have gone to Gaslight Gathering if I hadn't been following your blog and read your stories. So thank you for all of that!"
A blurry shot of Alice with her friends and SPG. (Srsly, Alice, we need to talk about getting you a better camera! ;))
And finally, this one from Melaine in California legitimately made me cry. Dang it all.
"Hi Jen. Thanks in large part to you and the community you've fostered, I went to the Nova Albion Steampunk Convention this year.
"I've always been unashamedly out and proud about my nerdiness, so that was never an issue. But I have pretty bad anxiety, and I struggle with depression and also some super fun chronic pain problems, so going to a three-day long social event where there's also a lot of standing was...intimidating. But the pictures you post of cons make it seem so fun, and if you can do it...
"So I bought a ticket and a hotel room as a graduation present to myself, and dragged a friend along, and worked for months on my outfits, and you know what?
"I had the most fun I've ever had in my whole life. I had three whole days of uninterrupted fun and silliness. I made friends with some of the most entertaining and creative people I have ever met, and learned how to waltz and polka and then danced with strangers and it was fine. I was fine. I even have plans to go dancing with a few of them now. And I'm definitely going to Albion again next year.
"Attached is a picture of me, in the outfit of which I am proudest, grinning like I don't have a care in the world. I'm a steampunk librarian, complete with tool belt for catching and cataloging feral books (I just got accepted into a library science program in real life).
"Thank you for showing me that anxiety doesn't have to rule my life."
(Anyone else reminded of Garth Nix's Lirael? Badass steampunky librarians UNITE!)
Thanks so much to all of these fabulous, brave ladies for letting me share their stories, and to all the rest of you out there who take the time to e-mail me. I firmly believe that the more we share the things we love, the more good we can do in this world, and you are all perfect examples of that. Exemplary, even. ;)
Now I better get out of here before I get all weepy again. Thanks again, everyone, and as always, feel free to share your own photos and links in the comments or over on the Epbot Facebook page!