I love conventions. Costume conventions, specifically. I love hanging out, making friends, talking shit, flirting, getting dressed up, having my picture taken…I love it.
But one day I realized that it wasn’t enough. And by “it” I mean all of the above. Don’t get me wrong, I still love it, but I need it to evolve. I need to add some dimension to it, to keep it interesting to me. I find that I get dissatisfied when things don’t change. So, I decided that I wanted to start doing panels.
It was funny how it happened. My partner and I decided to attend some DragonCon panels one year – I usually never went because I was too busy dressing up and going to photo shoots – something I do sparingly now. My partner is a HUGE fan of “Avatar: the Last Airbender” and since DCon had a couple of panels about the show, we opted to attend.
That was…well, it was awful. The people running the panel really just had a vague idea of what they wanted to do. And apparently, they wanted to talk about how much they loved the show. Except there was no real focus and the panel and it showed. None of the people on the panel were experts or had any particular topic they wanted to discuss. And one of the panelists was a kid who had been roped in so that they had 3 people on the panel…which he said when giving his background.
I walked away angry.
The part that super pissed me off was that it could have been awesome and fun. All they had to do was pick a topic – a subtheme of the show and decide to explore that. They had no tangible passion for what they were doing and it made that panel an utter failure. And I said, “we could have done that better.”
And the seed was planted.
Year 1 - 2014
I started doing research on panels. I sent in questions, asked about application periods, and started think-tanking about it. The responses I received were fairly lukewarm and disinterested. I soon realized that networking played a heavy role in the panel creation and participant process.
I am not a networker. I don’t really like it. I like talking to people. I like learning about them. I like being friendly. I like sharing information.
What I don’t like is going to an event structured around building these relationships. I’m not super open to new people. I prefer to meet people in settings where I naturally find myself and then building relationships naturally, if they are meant to happen. I need the interest to be reciprocated, and I need to like you. I’m not into forced relationships at all and meet and greets kinda leave me cold.
That left me with a problem. And my solution? I decided to think about it and do some more research. Eventually. This is all part of how I think and process the world. I gain an interest in something, try to figure out if I can bulldoze my way into it, see that it’s a little harder that I thought, back away, and then just keep the idea buzzing in the background without openly pursuing it. I find that this approach keeps me vigilant on possible avenues to reach that goal without making it my sole focus. It also keeps me aware of other opportunities that I may have missed if I were too focused.
It’s not an exact method, but I do this in a lot of areas of my life. I do this with job hunting, work tasks, costume building, relationships…It also helps me keep room for all of my other interests. And it forces me to accept that things don’t necessarily happen on my ideal timeline. Some things will happen when they are meant to happen.
Year 2 - 2015
I’ve been convention costuming for a while. A little over 10 years, to be exact. During that time I’ve met a lot of people, made some great friends, met and married my partner, been a calendar girl, been loved and ignored many times over, and learned a lot about myself.
But mainly, I’ve met and made a lot of great friends and some acquaintances who I like. And I’ve built a network. It’s been fun. A lot of fun. And it’s provided opportunity. The calendar I was in, Girls of the Con, was awesome. I loved that experience. Through it, I’ve met some cool people. Some I’ve bonded with easier than others, but still. My cosplay network has grown in awesome ways. It’s through that network that I saw a panel one of the women from the calendar ran for a couple of years – the Body Positivity in Cosplay panel. This woman had the panel scheduled for MomoCon but due to a wonderful opportunity was unable to run the panel, so she asked for volunteers. She’s also a social justice crusader (I refuse to see this label as an insult) and specifically sought out people of color (POC) for the panel. I give her much respect for that. I asked to be considered. I’m a fat, older, POC and knew I’d be a good fit. Fortunately she agreed and I was able to do it.
Being on a panel was fun! I love to talk. I love to inform. I like moderating. I, apparently, like being the center of attention. There were some issues with the panel – it was originally run by 2 women, and I didn’t want to step on any toes so I kinda backed away from trying to run it. At the last minute, the other leader dropped out and I was the one who stepped up to bring the slides, set up the laptop, and show up on time to moderate/lead the panel.
I’m not saying it was great, but it was fun. There were a couple of hiccups with some of the audience questions, but I managed my kneejerk response to get up in that ass pretty well. I also tried to keep things focused and kept the forum open to questions. I really like questions.
At the end of the session, someone running another panel asked if I’d be interested in being on his panel. I agreed. I didn’t quite understand his topic, but I was game to try it out. It was a great opportunity to build a relationship with someone else in the panel game. I’m hoping this turns into something ongoing.
So here we are coming up on year 3 of me trying to get into the panelist game. I’ve been working to nurture the relationships I have with people. I know of someone trying to start up a new convention – I have asked to be a panelist there. I’m applying to do another panel at MomoCon in 2016. I was on a cosplay panel at ONYXCON this year. I’m going to judge a costume contest on Halloween for that group. I know of a local comic book store that plans to have a February event – I’m hoping to do a panel there. We’ll see.
The new struggle is determining my presence and message – which has been the impetus for this site and this blog. I’m hoping this will help me define and structure my messaging and platform – if I have one - which I think I should.
This is my journey.
It’s not just a cosplay journey, nor is it a panelist journey. It’s part of my life journey and I call it “Breaking Normal.”