Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Epbot Exemplars: "My First Con" Edition!

I thought this would be a good follow-up to my last post: I get so many convention "success stories" from you readers that I started compiling a few of my favorites. These are all from people who attended a convention for the very first time, many of whom struggle with anxiety and/or just didn't know what to expect. Once you've read their stories, I think you'll see why I just HAD to share. Enjoy!

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:

"Hi Jen,

"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!


  1. Jen, thanks so much for posting this. I don't suffer from anxiety at all but reading about all of these brave women has really helped me understand what others are going through. It will help me (and certainly others, too) to support our fellow geek girls. I am so completely impressed with all of these girls for being absolutely brave and trying something new & scary. Rock on!

  2. Ok, I'm not a girl, but I wanted to add some notes. I've got my own pile of social issues to deal with as do a lot of people. Women are particularly beset by the plague of (undeserved) lack of self confidence. Costume events are a great way to work around some of those issues. I'm more a Ren Fair/SCA person so I spend my time dressed up as a 17th century merchant(as I'm usually selling jewelry it works), but because I'm there as someone OTHER then me, I can somewhat ignore a few of my issues. If you are scared to go out to something spend sometime putting together an outfit, make something up or go as a character. Remember you aren't putting on this outfit for other people, but for you. It makes you feel special, and that feeling will make you go a long ways.

  3. My daughter loved Melaine from California's costume. She thought she looked like Jane from Disney's Tarzan :)

  4. I love these! I have moderate social anxiety, but the truth is mostly I get worried that I'm not geeky/nerdy *enough* to go to a con and will be ostracized (er... wait, that is sort of social anxiety, isn't it? :-)). It's kind of silly, especially because I don't think there's any one true definition of "nerd" or "geek." These girls are inspiring for people with any sort of social anxiety, and I hope I can follow in their footsteps someday!

  5. I can't believe I've been featured as an Epbot Exemplar (I'm Cruella)!!! My life is complete! Thanks to Jen for this blog -- it's the encouragement I needed to "release the geek".

    1. Your outfit is fabulous! Thank you for sharing your story. Way to go!


  6. LOVE Melaine's idea of catching and cataloguing feral books. I can just see them trying to whizz by her as she snags them and tags them.... She needs to be in a Jasper Fforde book!

  7. Gah! It's so true! I have never been to a con NOR cosplayed, but I did dye my hair for the first time this year (I am 30) I asked for auburn highlights with an electric blue streak. What I got was NEON ORANGE with a midnight blue streak. I was mortified. BUT. I talked myself into accepting it ("it's only hair, right? It'll grow out in no time...") and I began to notice a difference in my attitude. I'm normally on the quiet side, but suddenly I was BRAVE. I was starting all kinds of conversations with strangers at stores or church, would act more silly and spontaneous out in public, I don't know... It was exhilarating!!! Now it is faded and half grown out ( I am also not the type of person to have regular hair appointments, apparently) and everyone keeps asking when I'm going do my "awesome orange" hair again, haha.

  8. Hi Jen! I always really enjoy your posts about the cons, and I would love to go to one. In fact, I am already working on ideas for costumes (just the ideas so far, but that's 3/4 of the battle). The catch is that I don't have one to go to. I'm aware of some of the big ones, but they're all kind of far away and a bit daunting. You've suggested starting with a smallish one, but I don't know how to find one. How do you recommend finding cons in my local area?

    I promise that if you direct me to a good one, there will be a costume, and I'll send you pictures.

  9. I feel like Carina hit it right on the head -- it's so much easier when people come to you.

    If you saw me at work, you'd never guess how uncomfortable I am talking to people. I smile, laugh, crack jokes, and generally make customers feel great about being there. But that's because the customers come to me. I'm doing my job, and playing a role, and I can handle that.

    Outside of work, I have trouble buying movie tickets or ordering drinks. I have difficulty approaching salespeople. And asking a con-goer if I can take their picture? I'd have to hope waggling my camera and looking hopeful was good enough.

    We don't always want to be left alone! :D Sometimes we just don't know how to integrate ourselves.

  10. Those women ROCK and the costumes, awesome. You are inspiring people all over the world.

  11. Carina, you should wear green more often. You look amazing!

  12. Such awesome stories and wonderful costumes! Need to as Carina where she got the pattern for her green dress - I've been looking for a Victorian gown like that for years!
    ~erin kristine

  13. Steampunk Librarians unite! I'm in my second to last semester of library school and it's so great to see another Steampunk Librarian. I have to finish my costume, but I am the librarian for an Airship Crew. I'm also the Jedi Librarian.

    All of you women rock for getting out there and trying it, and having fun despite your issues.

  14. Great stories! Sort of boosts my confidence that maybe, one day, I will dress up for a convention.

  15. I just wanted to say to Carina in Germany that you look FABULOUS in green, and you should wear it often! What a lovely dress you made!! And congrats to all of you for going out, being brave and having a good time.

  16. This has inspired me, so much (and while listening to spotify "roll away the stone" played so yeah i cried like crazy. I don't struggle with extreem crowd anxiety or no way out panic, I am just painfully shy and terrified of doint something i have never done before alone. I am larger than the average gal, so to have someone talk to me always throws me into doubt. .are they coming to talk to me or be hateful... what are their real motives, I have always been afriad to go to anything for that fear. I have always loved Disney, and I am "late" to the geekry seen, I just now am discovering steam punk and super heros (I'm 23) so I always felt like I would just be thie poser.. that I don't belong to them, but this blog, that I have been reading for a while (and rarely comment) has just inspired me to be me.. be the dorky Disney loving, Sat. Morning Cartoon loving, Robot admiring self. Thanks Jen and the Epbot Community :) (oh and the Dress Carina has ...WANT IT !! lol

  17. The awesomeness of these stories cannot be underestimated. Or even verbalized. Wow. Just wow.
    And thanks Jen for sharing with the rest of us.

  18. Congratulations *checks spelling* (I'm from Cake Wrecks. I've seen that written wrong so many times, I have to remind myself of the correct way), everyone! You all have amazing bravery, creativity, and talent!


  19. Love these! At Phoenix Comicon my boyfriend and I spent a day dressed as Russell and Carl from Up, and the best part of the day was little kids running up to me and going "Russell! Russell!" I don't have social anxiety, but I am a bit of an introvert, so at first the attention made me a little uncomfortable, but really, when people approach you to say "Love your costume," all you really have to do is say "Thank you," and the conversation flows easily from there.

  20. Achievement unlocked!

    Seriously, thank you.

    -Melaine from California.

  21. WOW, reading these stories made me so happy. I actually gasped out loud when I saw Ula's Darth Vader/Ursula costume, and Carina's outfit is so incredibly gorgeous! The emerald shade is perfect, but I still want one in every color of the rainbow. :D

  22. Yeah...on that last one my first thought was Lirael, which is awesome!

    Someday I'll have to follow the example of all of these lovely ladies and actually get my butt to a con.

    Thank you for sharing.

  23. Carina, I know this had been said already, but you look gorgeous in that emerald green. I bet you would look fabulous in other jewel tones as well.

  24. Oh my God. All of these stories had me tearing up. I adored all the costumes and creativity these women showed. I'm also in awe of their courageousness. Although anxiety is not something you can just "get over," I'm glad they worked out a way to handle it and enjoy the cons. It's an inspriation for the rest of us!

  25. Yay Melanie!
    I'm a brand new librarian. I love your costume, and it's great to reward yourself with trips (and to bring a friend along.) I hope you enjoy your library science program!

  26. It was fun reading all these stories, and they encourage me to try cosplaying again since my first experience in cosplay was fairly discouraging. I spent a few months hunting for the perfect pieces in every thrift store in the city and I was super excited to go to the convention. I went with a friend dressed as Tetra from Legend of Zelda, and within minutes people were asking her for pictures. We were there the entire Saturday of the con and not one person recognized that I was even wearing a costume. I was kind of upset about it, but I really liked what I ended up with and a few people left nice comments when I posted pictures on my Tumblr.

    Whoa, that took a turn for the self-centred and depressing. Excellent job to everyone featured for their amazing costumes! You all look wonderful.

  27. I was gonna make this comment in the next post, with the female Doctors, but at like 500+ comments? Hells NAW.

    OK, sisters, I have been working on my Eleven (and a Half!) Doctors costume, and here's what I've got so far:

    First = Black "string tie", tied in a bow
    Second = Baggy pleated pants
    Third = White flouncy ruffly shirt
    Fourth = THAT SCARF, of course
    Fifth = Celery stalk on my lapel
    Sixth = Rainbow umbrella
    Seventh = Red braces/suspenders
    Eighth = Doubled-breasted brocade waistcoat
    Ninth = Black leather trench coat
    Tenth = Black Chucks (for all the running!)
    Eleventh = FEZ!
    And A Half = My red hair and big cans, thereby representing Doctordonna from the Human Time-Lord Metacrisis! WIZARD!

    Oh, and did I mention that I'll be handing out Jelly Babies and Jammy Dodgers, and that I'm working on a K-9 costume for my Pug? SHE GOOD DOG!



    (Let this post be a warning to you young folks who have never gone to a Con; I went to my first one in 1981, when I was 13 JUST to meet Wendy Pini, creator/artist of "Elfquest", who was/is my HERO. That was the San Diego Comic Con where two different local fangroups found out she was coming and dressed up as every single character EVER in the series to that point. I saw them and the fun they were having playing dress-up, and said "I wanna do THAT!" So I threw together an Elfquest-ish costume [it was a steaming hot mess, but it was sewn by hand, so, NYAH!] and went to the first con I heard about back home up in the Bay Area. I made friends at that con that are still dear to me, over 30 years later, people that were longtime costumers that were encouraging yet gave me a few tips on how it could be better [and are still my Costuming Mentors], professional artists who looked at my crappy drawings and saw enough raw talent to tell me to keep it up, and why don't you come by my house the next time I'm working, so you can see how a comic artist works? Fantastic, encouraging, loving, friendly people at cons-- you go to one, you'll find yourself hooked, and dressing up silly for LIFE, I warn you now.)


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