Double Book Review: We Were Liars by E. Lockhart/ Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

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I have had a hell of a time recently with my materials.  First, I watched 13 Reasons Why, and then I read this. We Were Liars. This book was lent to me by my wonderful friends and fellow booklovers, Nicki and Dani who had both read the book. It looked fairly short, and sounded interesting, they both said it was amazing, and they were not kidding.

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We Were Liars is the perfect summer read- it takes place on a private island, with the focal characters being privileged kids (with the exception of one), and the secrets kept and the truth behind a perfect, wealthy American family. The main character has an accident, and spends the majority of the book trying to figure out what happened to her since she has amnesia. I can’t give the plot away, but trust me when I say  this book will leave you breathless.

I can’t deny that the title was hard for me to shake, because I actively watch Pretty Little Liars on Freeform, and the fact the main characters are referred to as liars just makes me think of Spencer, Aria, Emily, Hannah and Alison. Also the characters in We Were Liars have some serious secrets they are holding, which is also one of the things that makes this a perfect suspenseful beach read.

Everything about this book is engaging, and indulgent.  The island and its  houses, the teenage cousins plus their friend, and the budding romance between our main character and her friend. Despite their privileged lives, the cousins +1 have deep connections as well as average teenage instincts.  Each one is written vividly, with multiple layers to  their personality. I found myself heavily indulged, and I’m pretty sure I finished it within 24 hours. The ending left me speechless, and I am not going to sugarcoat this for you- it is tear inducing.

Shifting gears, I was pretty emotionally exhausted from consuming 13 Reasons Why and We Were Liars, and it was time to read something cheerful. Enter Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell.

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Fangirl was the answer to my prayers.  This book felt so real to me, it was insane. I completely identified with so much of this book and its characters.

The story is about Cather, who is a twin.  Cather and her twin sister Wren are as close as twins can be, and after their mother leaves when they are kids, they are left with their bipolar father.  The girls are fans of a Harry Potter style fictional series, Simon Snow.  The girls are such big fans that they write Simon Snow Fanfiction.

An aside note for those of you who are not as ensconced in geek culture- Fanfiction is huge, and has been around FOREVER.  It is when fans appropriate and borrow characters be it from their favorite TV show, comic, movie or even book series-and create their own stories. I am not afraid to admit that I used to write my own fanfiction back in the day, and I’m sure if I read it now I would want to erase it, but you can never truly erase something once its on the internet, right?

The main plot of the story is that Cath and Wren are trying to establish their own identities by going to college and parting ways for the first time. Wren, is more assertive and itching for freedom, while Cath is shy and suffers from anxiety. This book hits the nail on the head so hard with its depiction of anxiety.  There’s a scene where Cath continually waits for her roommate (who she doesn’t speak to) to leave so she can eat her protein bars in peace,  because she doesn’t know where the dining hall is and is afraid to ask anyone. When her roommate finds out, she says “but you’ve lived here a month! how do you not know where the dining hall is?” and Cath replies that she’s never asked anyone.
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Cath’s social anxiety is something that is explored and challenged throughout the book, by herself and the people and situations around her.  I saw so much of myself, my friends, and even my husband in this book. I could relate to almost ALL of the situations in this book, except the part about having a twin sister, because as you know I’m an only child. The characters in this book were believable and charming. I really enjoyed Rowell’s writing style, and became engulfed in the world of Cath, Simon Snow, and university life in Nebraska.  This book also has romance in it, and we all know how much of a sucker I am for a good romance.

This book had everything for me and I enjoyed it so much I stayed up until all hours of the night, and read this as much as I could whenever I could.  I don’t want to give this plot away, because it is gradual and the pay off is really good. This would also make a spectacular beach read, and I recommend it to EVERYONE.  It doesn’t matter if you are a geek or not, but it will definitely hit you in the feel spot if you are. I really wish there was a sequel to this, and there KIND OF is. Cath writes a fanfic titled Carry On and it is basically her biggest project. We get bits and pieces of her fic in the book, but apparently Rainbow Rowell actually WROTE the fanfic Carry On. a FICTIONAL CHARACTER’S FANFIC. It’s the “sequel”, if there really is one. Rowell also has written another book, titled Landline in which a couple of the characters from Fangirl make an appearance, so I am definitely going to have to  check that out, as well as some of her other books.

 

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Episode 5 Living The Dream: Dragon Con

 

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When we decided to go to Dragon Con, it was kind of surprising and spontaneous. Nicki brought up the idea, to which we said sounded cool, and then when tickets went on sale after last year’s con, we had a short window to purchase the tickets for the lower price and we said “let’s do this.” That was it, Nicki bought the tickets and then it hit us that we were going to Dragon Con, one of the biggest cons on the circuit, and we would be traveling to Atlanta, Georgia to do so.  This would be the biggest con ever for us. We knew it was going to be amazing, and huge- but nothing could have prepared us for the sheer force of this mega con.

Attending a massive convention like Dragon Con takes some planning.  Flights, hotel accommodations, transportation, and the planning of costumes.  My Ariel Kiss The Girl Dress cost me a whopping $265 alone. I was fortunate that I didn’t have to pay that upfront, instead the designer let me make payments on the costume over the course of several months, until it was paid off and delivered in July. The costume was customized to my measurements, and while there were some issues with it, it was definitely worth the price, considering it was the CHEAPEST costume on Etsy. I considered several designers on Etsy, and most of the costumes ranged over the $270 mark.  Wigs are also pricey when it comes to cosplay, and most styled character wigs on Etsy start at around $100 or more. I was extremely lucky to find my wig, styled for $40. I even got character shoes off Amazon for $25, so that the costume would be authentic.  Add Supernatural, and TrotCon to the mix- 2 more costumes I hadn’t planned on funding, and I was seriously glad most of our money was spent in advance. Upon our arrival to the con, nothing could have prepared us.  Brony Con’s 4,000-10,000 people was nothing compared to the 80,000 people attending Dragon Con. I have never seen so many people crammed in one place. The first day didn’t seem like much on Thursday, as we attempted to get the lay of the land. A super friendly and helpful employee at one of the hotels helped show us around a bit, and told us that the next day we would not be able to see the floor. She was right.

Dragon Con is held not in a convention center, or a hotel, but in multiple hotels AND a convention center. 5 Hotels are host to panels, photos, parties and more; and the convention center is 3 levels of vendors. We lined up for our first panel, at 10 am. The panel didn’t start until 11:30, but we thought we’d line up since we thought it might be a popular panel and the line might be long. That was an understatement. The line for the Firefly panel with Alan Tudyk and Adam Baldwin wrapped through the hotel, out the door, around the building and around the block. When a staff member came out and stood a few feet from us, he bellowed “The ballroom only holds 2,000 people. This is usually the cut off, and anyone after this point may or may not get in.” We had been in line for a while, and decided we wanted to take the chance; which paid off in our favor as we were able to get in to the panel.  It was however a bit of a shock, and also kind of a wake up.  We were going to have to be in line at least 1-2 hours ahead of time if we wanted to get into a panel we really wanted to see.  Below is a photo of the long line that seemingly goes on forever.

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While panels were a lengthy waiting time, we managed to do a few.  The highlight of the trip for me was the cosplay, the food and experiencing the massive and overwhelming environment of the con itself.  We attended the Dragon Con Night at the Georgia Aquarium on Saturday, which was the day we cosplayed as princesses. I cosplayed as my idol Ariel, Dani cosplayed as Aurora, and Nicki cosplayed as Yvaine from Stardust.

 

The night at the Aquarium was definitely worth leaving the con, and I had a blast indeed but we ended up leaving early because I was pretty exhausted. We all were. The first couple of days at the con we were utterly beat. Cons are not for the faint of heart- I know some people who think it’s nonstop geeky fun; which it is, but it is also really tiring when you consider all that it entails. Waking up very early to get ready and in full cosplay, so you can be out the door to arrive early at your first panel to ensure you get a spot in, rushing from place to place to try to hit everything you want to do (especially in a big city with a big con like Dragon Con), you don’t always have time to eat (best to pack snacks and bottled water) sometimes unless you’re sitting in a panel, which you might have to leave early to make your photo, autograph or next panel, stopping constantly to be photographed, and literally trying to do everything.  Dragon Con has programming that runs 24 hours, including big parties, and by mid-day you seriously feel in need of caffeine. By 9 you might feel ready to enter a comatose slumber.

Saturday was Princess Cosplays, and of course those were some of the more intricate, tricky, lengthy costumes. Dani had some major wardrobe malfunctions. I was the only one who got to do a trial run of my princess costume BEFORE Dragon Con, and Dani had her dress altered before Dragon Con, at the tailor who altered my skirt. She was in a hurry, picked up her dress (without trying it on at the shop) and the tailor had taken it in too much, so she took it back to be fixed. We had some issues with her zipper which totally broke, and we ended up trapping her in with safety pins and Velcro, and bustled part of her dress to cover up the malfunction. For fixing it on the fly, it was amazing that it stayed together ALL DAY.  My wardrobe issues were definitely less devastating, but I had them nonetheless. For one, my wig cap and wig kept riding back (it was bought on Etsy and not Arda) and I was constantly adjusting it. I also happened to get an aptly timed visit from Aunt Flo, so naturally I was anxious that I would stain my expensive costume, and thankfully I didn’t.  Nicki didn’t have any issues with her costume that I remember, but needless to say it was a long morning of fixing wardrobe malfunctions, make up, tightening corsets, and getting everything together. We got lots of pictures with other Princess cosplayers, and I loved being able to walk around freely in the skirt as opposed to shuffling around in my mermaid tail skirt. I went hardcore though and wore HEELS. I wanted my costume to be accurate, so I got character dance shoes that looked almost exact to Ariel’s black heels from her date with Eric. I had inserts, so that helped.

One of the biggest issues was the shuttle that ran from hotel to hotel. There were shuttle stations set up, and different lines (distinguished by color). They were supposed to run every 30 minutes, but sometimes it seemed as if you’d be waiting forever until a shuttle decided to stop.

 

Here’s some awesome pictures of the awesome Disney Princess cosplayers we got to see!

Also, we got our photo with DareDevil himself, Charlie Cox!

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The Aquarium itself was beautiful, and we paid for the VIP treatment which meant we got to go in the VIP line and enter the event first, and we had open bar and appetizers, and we got a nifty pin.  Of course, I wanted to cosplay as Ariel at the aquarium, when was I going to get the chance to cosplay as The Little Mermaid at an actual aquarium again? I almost packed my mermaid tail costume, but I’m glad I didn’t because finding time to change cosplays and be at the aquarium would have been more than difficult. As to be expected, cosplayers kept with the oceanic theme and there were tons of Little Mermaid cosplayers, as well as Milo from Atlantis, quite a few Captain Jack Sparrow’s, and we even saw an older group cosplay as Gilligan’s Island characters.  I’m a natural fan of fish, and marine animals; especially dolphins and whales. While I favor Killer Whales, Belugas are definitely my runner up. I was geeking out kind of fierce, excited to have my picture taken with fishy friends in my costume. I enjoyed all the exhibits, and one that sticks out is the otters. Otters are adorable, and funny, and   very interesting social creatures, and their exhibit was very busy as they were pretty active. I also really enjoyed the jellyfish.

Here’s some awesome shots from the aquarium.

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Sunday, we were tried and true- rocking our My Little Pony cosplays. It’s probably our most popular cosplay, every time we have worn it we get stopped constantly for pictures, and get a lot of attention.  This was truly my last run with my very loved, beat up pink tutu. I retired my Pinkie Pie cosplay after this convention, and will be upgrading to a different Pinkie Pie costume in the future. It was my very first cosplay, and lasted me 2 years of cosplaying multiple cons.  This costume has always been a comfortable one- a tank top, a fluffy skirt over top of a regular tiered skirt, and tennis shoes. The wig is by Epic Cosplay, who are up there with Arda to me. I have worn the wig for 2 years and never had any issues like I did with my Ariel wig.  Surprisingly Dragon Con didn’t give us the reception we anticipated with our most popular cosplays. In contrast, our pony cosplays were the LEAST recognized. We did get a lot of attention for our princesses though.  Oddly enough, con goers mistook us as cats, or “nekos”.  We got our photo with the awesome (and surprisingly hilarious) Brett Dalton, and sat in a few panels, as Sunday was the winding down period since most people left that day. This meant we could actually walk without taking small steps, lines were shorter some places, etc.

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Monday was our last day at the con, and the last day of the con period.  We were finally able to get into the Vendor Halls in the convention center, but surprisingly it was still pretty packed. I almost got taken out by a woman with a small child in a stroller. She was legit gunning for me. We were already packed in the aisles like sardines, there was nowhere for me to go, but that didn’t stop her.  Note to self: any time I want to force my way somewhere, I should have a child in a stroller. Maybe get one of those super realistic baby dolls. Think that would work? Anyway…. I wore my debut Poison Ivy costume Monday, and again I committed hardcore with heels.  Poison Ivy was done on a budget, and was the first costume I had an actual hand in crafting. While I paid a whopping $42 with shipping for the custom-made body suit, and $40 for the wig from Arda Wigs, the shoes were also character shoes, the same brand and model as my shoes for my Ariel cosplay, only instead of black they were nude color- which I spray painted to match my suit using floral spray paint. $25 for the shoes, and $17 for the spray paint. If I had nude shoes in my closet I didn’t wear I could have saved $25, but I couldn’t find anything plain and simple or as comfortable as the theatrical character shoes.  I went to the craft store and bought 2 flexible leather bracelets for $1 each, some floral craft ivy and floral tape. $140. Yeah, that’s budget. My very first cosplay, Pinkie Pie- cost me $150. To date, my most expensive cosplay is my Ariel Kiss The Girl costume, which came in at a whopping $265. It was my first fully commissioned costume. The only thing I had to really add was the wig and shoes, Lindsay Jane Design custom made my whole costume from the hair bow to the corset to the undershirt and skirt

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Poison Ivy is by far the most comfortable costume I’ve been in. It wasn’t tight, it wasn’t uncomfortable, the tights and shoes didn’t bother me, and the wig STAYED.  I was slightly apprehensive about doing this costume, because to be honest it is by far the most revealing costume I’ve done. I like to think I’m confident about my body, but that doesn’t mean I don’t worry about wardrobe malfunctions or other issues. In my mermaid costume, I bought a flesh panel (a Spanx undergarment) to cover me from the chest down, since I was going to be wearing a bikini top.  I was exposed, but if my top came off I had a panel covering me.  With Poison Ivy, I had the body suit made to extend over my butt, so it was cut like a full coverage bathing suit, and came down longer in the front to avoid any issues. Still though, I was essentially walking around the convention in just a leotard and tights. While my get up is probably tamer than others, it still takes some confidence to strut around in a leotard at a convention of 80,000 people.  If I can’t do it at 31, and be comfortable in my own skin, when can I? At the risk of sounding conceited, I feel like I looked great. It might not be as detailed or done up as other Ivy cosplays I saw, but sometimes a simple approach is best.

Monday night was an easy-going night, of dinner, packing and lounging in hotel beds watching Star Trek.  The whirlwind of Dragon Con was over, and no one wanted to go back to reality.  We have discussed definitely doing Dragon Con again in 2018, and this time we will have a better knowledge of what is in store and how to plan for things.

 

I knew going from small local conventions to the megalith convention was going to be somewhat of a culture shock, but I don’t think we were truly prepared for the magnitude of what Dragon Con was. It was overwhelming. Fun, exhausting, emotional, and overwhelming.

 

I can’t say enough about the people, and the food. Even our hotel staff was enthusiastic about seeing our costumes, and our Lyft drivers were some of the nicest people we’d encountered on the trip.  The food itself was great, but I honestly expected there to be more BBQ restaurants and fare in a city like Atlanta- while the city considers itself a culinary melting pot with lots of cutting edge cuisine, I did expect to see some BBQ ribs with homemade sauces, or pork belly sandwiches. I did have BBQ one night, at Max Lager’s Wood Fired Grille though. I had a bbq pulled pork sandwich with pork belly incorporated in.  It was pretty tasty.  I also tried a bite of Dani’s Bison Burger at Ted’s Montana Grille, a bite of Nicki’s Fried Green Tomatoes at Fandangles, as well as Deep Fried Sushi at Thrive. I also had a nibble of Dani’s Buttermilk Fried Chicken with Mac and Cheese and Potatoes and Gravy… Food wasn’t always on our radar, so when it was time to eat; finding a place amidst the massive throngs of people was tricky and time consuming. Almost EVERYWHERE there was a wait nonstop, so for the most part finding a place to dine wasn’t just about choosing a place; but also, just finding somewhere where there was a minimal wait time.

 

I should also mention that Dragon Con was Labor Day Weekend, and in the south. In a place that was normally hot, we traveled to Atlanta when there was a nearby hurricane. The heat was 90 degrees and stickier than a Cinnabun.  Our first flight from Pittsburgh was barely a half hour and smooth, but our connecting flight to Atlanta was turbulent af. I very rarely get sick on planes, but I repeatedly grabbed Nicki’s arm to steady my mobile stomach. Our eyes would meet with that shared knowledge that this was one of the roughest flights we’d been on in recent years. Still we landed ok, and our flights back were smooth. I did go to work that evening as well, so as not to use any more days than I needed for my trip. Our last con of the year, Wizard World was just a month away.

 

I’m sorry this review took so long, but I’ve been MIA due to a lot of happenings at home. It’s been seriously one thing after the next, and I just haven’t been in the right headspace to write a fun review. Hopefully I will finish all my reviews and articles I’ve been wanting to do before the new year.  Until next time ya’ll!

Episode 4 Living The Dream: Replay FX, Pittsburgh

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I have always been a “gamer” as long as I can remember.  My mom was a gamer, and definitely played our Nintendo, and  was most commonly found either tinkering with our computers or strategizing Myst or Tomb Raider or Doom on the computer.

I grew up with my mom playing video games, so naturally I played myself.  I spent many hours glued to the Magnavox wood finished tv staring at the screen watching Bub and Bob collect items in Bubble Bobble, or watching Kirby eat his enemies and take on their abilities. I played  Punch Out,  Mario,  Tiny Toons, Ninja Turtles, The Little Mermaid  on Nintendo, and adapted with all the new consoles from Gameboy Colors to Sega to PlayStation.  My favorite game series has to be Final Fantasy, primarily FF7 and FF10. I also enjoyed titles like Tomb Raider, Legend of Legaia,  Legend of Dragoon, and Kingdom Hearts. Growing up I didn’t know many other girls who played video games, and my friend count was already pretty limited, so I would come home from school and play by myself from the time I got home until dinner.  When I started talking to boys, I always wanted to talk about video games, and when dating; my crushes HAD to appreciate the finer points of pixelated worlds.  I could deal if they didn’t like anime, but they HAD to like gaming. All my boyfriends with the exception of 1, were gamers and geeks like me. My husband stated my love of video games was one of the things he found intriguing about me.  He definitely has me beat though, he’s more into video games than me, but his interests are less PS4 and more classic NES.

Last year when Replay FX came to Pittsburgh, we weren’t able to make it, so when they announced they were coming this year, I knew we HAD to go.  I heard it was a gaming festival with tons of games and consoles and entertainment.  Jeff and I decided we would go.

Much like Ralphie states about the leg lamp in A Christmas Story,  the soft glow of electric sex awaited us as we walked through the same doors I had been in just weeks earlier for Supernatural Convention.  The buzzing sound of pinball machines and coin-op machines, and rows and rows and rows of old tvs hooked up to classic NES’s, Playstations, Segas, Super Nintendo’s…. it was heaven. I got to play coin ops like Pac Man and Pac Woman, and Galaga, and chilled for a good while playing Crash Bandicoot for PlayStation. I watched Jeff play the arcade version of Ninja Turtles as well as The Simpsons.  All you can play, all day for $30. There was so much to play it was overwhelming.

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Outside the arcade room, there were tables set up and many shelves of board games that were also free to play.  They even had a 80’s living room set up, fully equipped with the 80’s couch, tv and even complete with tv guides from the era.

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The vendor hall of this convention was pretty diverse, and I happened to run into the most shocking part of the convention – Philo Barnhart.  Philo Barnhart is an animator, and worked for Don Bluth on a project in 1983. That project was Dragon’s Lair, an arcade game that still by today’s standards has a small cult following.  He also worked as an animator for Disney from 1983-1991 on some of the most iconic Disney films. He was a character designer and key animator for Ariel, on the Little Mermaid; my favorite movie of ALL TIME. Meeting the character designer of my favorite animated  character of all time at a video game convention was definitely a surprise, but really exciting. I bought 3 prints off of him, as he still draws the characters he’s known for. He also worked on Touchstone’s Who Framed Roger Rabbit, another of my all time favorites. I purchased a print of Jessica and Roger Rabbit, and 2 Ariel  prints and had him sign them. I’m still hunting frames for them, but they are now some of my most prized possessions.

That night they had some concerts, one in particular which Jeff was pretty stoked about. We caught the middle of TriForce Quartet, a  4 string quartet that played video game scores. You never truly appreciate the scores from theses games unless you can hear it live.  Hearing the Mario medley live on violin and cello was amazing, but that wasn’t what Jeff was so excited about.  The headliner for us was at 9:00, and was a band called Bit Brigade, who tours and plays conventions.  Their 9:00 show was performing the score from MegaMan 2; Jeff’s all time favorite game. He is a HUGE fan of the MegaMan series, about as big a fan as I am of the Little Mermaid.  Bit Brigade’s performance was something out of perfect nerdom: While they played guitar, bass, drums- one man played the classic Nintendo game on classic NES, and as he played, the music was played LIVE. The Nintendo player played the game all the way through, no errors, and the music was perfect.  Jeff LOVED IT.rfx09rfx08rfx07rfx06

This was probably one of the coolest conventions I’ve been to, because it’s my kind of convention. I enjoy  MLP, and general Comic Con’s, but I am truly a gamer at heart, and to just  play games all day long with my game loving husband was a perfect day to me.

 

Episode 3 Living The Dream: Trot Con Columbus, Ohio

I know I have probably said it a million times, but I am truly lucky to have such great people in my life who I can truly be myself with, and vice versa. My husband is definitely one of those individuals.  This was going to be such a fun weekend, just the two of us. We didn’t get a vacation this year, so this was it for us.  Columbus is about 3 hours away from Pittsburgh, and we left about 7am, stopping once for breakfast at Cracker Barrel, and arriving at The Crowne Plaza around 10:30. This was the first time we had attended a convention in a hotel.  In 2014 we attended Brony Con, which was held in a large convention center, with surrounding hotels. Our hotel we stayed in was across the street from the con then, and now our con was IN the hotel we were staying at. We knew going into purchasing our tickets that Trot Con was NOT Brony Con- it was going to be much, much smaller, but what it lacked in size it made up for in programming. The programming went 24 hours- round the clock panels and discussions, an awesome concert, autographs, a cosplay contest, and John DeLancie. Freaking John DeLancie. Not even Brony Con could get him. We checked in, unloaded our bags and familiarized ourselves with the layout of the con- the vendor hall, the main ballrooms where the big events would be, and the salons where all the smaller panels would be held such as karaoke, history of my little pony, bronies and autism, etc. We were pretty lucky that our room was on the main floor of the convention, literally 2 doors down from the salons. This was great because we could get to everything quickly, but also sucked at 5am when some people were still partying from the night before and others were just getting up to attend panels.

After getting the lay of the land, we changed into our cosplays- Shining Armor and Princess Cadence; the royal couple.

 

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I didn’t expect the reaction we got, regardless of the fact that MLP Cosplayers are notorious for going that extra mile and acting like their character they are portraying-as we walked around people bowed to me, and referred to me as your highness. I wasn’t in my costume for 30 minutes and a fellow cosplayer asked me to do the dance between Twilight and Cadence from one of the episodes, and at first I was taken aback- I couldn’t even remember it properly, and was nervous. after opening a bit and going through it once, we did it in perfect synchronization, and it was really fun.  This set the tone for the rest of the weekend.  The theme for the con this year was “The Horse Awakens” and everything was sci fi themed.  Dr. Who references, and Star Wars and Star Trek, and pretty much any other sci fi thing was part of this weekend.  Some Brony Community members were in attendance, such as Bronies React reviewers AnimatedJames, ILoveKimPossibleAlot (aka KP), and Bronies React newcomers, Fire Team Harmony.

Saturday was the big long day, as it usually is with most of the cons I’ve attended. Jeff and I rolled out our tried and true cosplays, Pinkie Pie and DJ Pon-3. Not only were we attending John DeLancie’s panel that day, but we were also participating in our first costume contest.

The costume contest was fun, and a little scary. My stomach tensed much in the way it would before I would step on stage and perform a choreographed dance number. The spotlights were so bright it drowned out the audience, which wasn’t as big as I had thought it would be, and that was probably a good thing. Of course, I was more surprised Jeff participated too, and while we didn’t win; I can say at least I’ve done a costume contest now, and I got a professional picture of me in my cosplay before I retired it. This was the 2nd to last time I wore my Pinkie Pie cosplay, as it had gotten me through several conventions, and was my best, go to cosplay.

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We also got to meet Fire Team Harmony and get our photos with them. They were just as hilarious in person as they are in their videos.

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Saturday night was also the night of the “Rave”. Brony Musicians playing all through the night.  We attended part of it, and danced and had a blast, but as 10:30 approached I felt like I was going to pass out and sleep for days.  We did a quick run to Tim Horton’s for coffee at 8:00pm, because after 7, I was ready for bed. That’s the only downfall to this convention- there’s so much to do you almost have to find a spot in your day where you have a gap where nothing is going on, so you can take a nap to recharge your batteries for the next onslaught of programming. Jeff wanted to check out some of the 18+ adult programming that went on during the night, but we ended up going to bed, after a good round of pony sing along karaoke.  During karaoke, we discovered a new song, by a Brony musician known as EileMonty, called “Three Day Party Weekend”. It sums up Brony conventions exactly perfectly. “Gotta jump in line for the next panels, run around the halls, trying to find our friends… in the dealer’s hall running out of money… it all goes down at this three-day party weekend”… truer words could not have been spoken.

Sunday was the end of the con, and we stayed until closing ceremonies at 6. We even won a shirt at the closing ceremony raffle.

The con itself was pretty small, with a whopping 800 people in attendance.  Experiencing the con in a hotel was pretty different, the Crowne Plaza being the nicest hotel I’ve stayed in for a con.  They even had a video game room with old pcs, and game consoles. Jeff spent some time in there rehearsing karaoke songs and I even played quite a few rounds of Duck Hunt.    I had a blast, but was definitely glad I had taken off the next few days.  Back to back conventions were exhausting as I knew they would be, but they were worth it. Jeff had a great time as well.  The fact that the con was much smaller, made it more intimate and personal which was different.  This was more of a community event, with reviewers and popular Bronies, and fans of varying ages, and cosplayers of all walks of life. We definitely enjoyed it and will consider it for next year.

 

Episode 2 Living the Dream: Pittsburgh’s 1st Supernatural Convention

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July was a pretty productive, busy month for me. It seemed as if everything just seamlessly transitioned into one another, with Supernatural Convention first.

In case you’ve been living under a rock, Supernatural the television show has been on for 12 seasons. It’s one of the longest airing shows to date. The show centers around supernatural “hunters” brothers Sam and Dean Winchester, who drive around in a badass Impala takin’ out the things that go bump in the night. Vampires, werewolves, angels, demons, and even God and Lucifer are just a few of the characters and story lines that have appeared over the years. The show has a huge following of fandoms, and much like My Little Pony has an abundance of autistic fans, Supernatural has an abundance of fans who suffer from mental illnesses such as depression, anxiety or suicidal thoughts.  The fans are all very supportive and kind to one another, and  the actors are so genuine  off camera and with their fans, that the relationship between those on the show and their fans is one of the biggest draws in the fandom. Jared Padalecki and Jenses Ackles; the actors who play the brothers Sam and Dean, seem to be the best of friends with not only each other, but many of the cast members on the show, in a genuine and honest way.  The fandom adopts the hashtag and term SpnFamily, because it’s been stated that this fandom is indeed more than that; it’s a family.

For the longest time, Supernatural has had conventions.  Produced and ran by Creation Entertainment- the same company that runs Star Trek conventions and Once Upon A Time conventions, the Supernatural convention has been out of our reach. The closest convention to Pittsburgh was Chicago; that is until this past summer. My friends and I have been watching the show since it premiered 11 years ago, and have always wanted to attend, so you can imagine our excitement when they announced they were coming to OUR CITY.  While Supernatural was more expensive than any of us could have imagined, the experience was exclusive and so much fun. Much like Brony Con, this was a specific fandom based convention in which our time was spent mostly attending panels and photo ops. The cast members new and old are so enthusiastic about the convention itself, it’s hard not to feel their infectious energy.  Nicki cosplayed as “Dean-mon” the demon version of Dean Winchester, and I cosplayed as “Sam-antha” Winchester, and Dani sported a badass  version of the Impala, fully equipped with license plate replica from the Impala in the show.

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The con took place downtown Pittsburgh at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center, which itself if HUGE. The very same weekend of Supernatural, there was also a massive Yugi-Oh Convention going on, and it just to happened that the first day of the Con was also the debut of Pokémon Go!, and Saturday was the Pittsburgh Bicentennial complete with cosplay parade and  evening firework celebration. What a great day to be in Pittsburgh!

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Friday night there was a Kareoke concert,  Saturday was a long day full of panels and pictures with Mark Sheppard and Misha Collins.

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I can’t even begin to tell you how excited I was to meet these guys. Mark Sheppard is one of those actors who has been in so many awesome shows that I have liked over the years, it’s obvious by the look on my face- with my crazy eyes and all- that I was so freaking stoked. Misha Collins is such a cool human being in general, and embraces his quirkiness and spreads kindness and happiness with everything he does. This is when things go beyond “playing a part”, and one of the many reasons Supernatural’s fandom is so cool.

Friday was the first day of the con, and I was off work to attend. Dani had to work, but Nicki and I were available, so we headed down early to get the lay of the land,  hang out in the Strip District (which has nothing to do with strippers and everything to do with cool cuisine) and attend the fabled celebrity and fan  karaoke event. While waiting in line for the doors to open to the Kareoke event, a woman in cosplay went about asking for anyone who had birthdays in July to step forward. Naturally I couldn’t sit still, and ended up getting wrangled into a game of “Chubby Bunny”- which until that day I had never heard of. All of us wore party hats, and were instructed to sit on the floor in a circle, and shove marshmallows into our mouths, one at a time ( the jumbo size not the little ones) and say “chubby bunny”. The person who was able to fit the most marshmallows in their mouth and still clearly say “chubby bunny” won a handmade Winchester pillow. I was out after the first round, only capable of fitting 2 marshmallows in my mouth. So many “big mouth” jokes and puns available here but I’m not going there.

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Saturday was the longest day. We got up pretty early, and traffic due to all the happening stuff in the ‘burgh was quite the pain in the ass. Pittsburgh streets alone are a force to be reckoned with, but half the roads were closed off due to the Cosplay Parade for the Bicentennial.  When we finally arrived to the con, there was a MASSIVE amount of geeks and nerds playing Pokémon Go.  As I stated above,  the weekend of our con was the debut weekend of Pokémon Go, and thus my fellow geeks were beside themselves with wonderment and adhd and while no one walked into traffic or fell off a cliff in the first few days,  the amount of people  who were not watching where they were going, or collecting into large groups of people just standing there blocking entrances was something of its own to behold.

A whole shlew pf 3,000 people attended the Supernatural Convention, and I bet you  most of them were there Saturday and Sunday.  Shuffling around the David L. Lawrence in cosplay, hungry and severly under-caffeinated, we relished in the moments we were able to sit in our panels and soak up the awesomeness that surrounded us. We even attended a auction, just to see what kind of items and crazy prices would be witnessed. We sat in the middle back, away from all the bidders, and yet at one point I  stretched my arm and the bidding announcer asked me if I was bidding on the tapestry of the  Winchesters that was going for over $1,000. Mortified, I said  “no I’m not bidding, I was  just stretching”. I truthfully don’t know how he even saw my hand, being as I was further away than the girl who was clearly jumping up and down waving her arms to place her bid.

Saturday night there was a concert by the house band, Louden Swain. Louden Swain is fronted by Rob Benedict- or as we know him in the fandom as Chuck, and God. The concert featured guests of the show as well. It was seriously a long day, and by 11:00 we were exhausted.

Sunday, the last day of the con was the only day Jared Padalecki and Jensen Ackles were at the con, so naturally it was the day we had our photographs taken with them and got to sit in on their panel, which was hilarious.

Now, most people have a favorite Winchester regardless. While I feel like Dean (Jensen Ackles)  is the most popular choice in my opinion, as if my cosplay wasn’t plain to see; I favor Sam Winchester- tall, brown eyes, long hair, brooding and smart.  I was thrilled to meet them  both, but definitely the most excited to meet Sam Winchester himself; Jared Padalecki.

Now if your a very, very serious fan and willing to spend the $400, you could get the “Sandwich” photo with both dreamboats and you in the middle. Keep in mind you may have already paid $300 or more for your admission package, and any other photo ops or autographs.  While tempting, we opted to get individual photos, and because we are an uneven group of 3 people, we had to purchase multiple solo photos so that we could have pictures together.  I had 2 pictures with Jared- one with Nicki and one with Dani. In my first picture with Jared and Nicki, I was so focused on not having crazy eyes in my photo- I wanted to look nice, and not unhinged. This was it for me- the one celebrity I’d always wanted to meet.  The First photo came out nice, and I was super happy I didn’t have crazy eyes.

However,  because you get moved through so quickly, I  waited after Nicki left for Dani to run in and pose for the second picture, and was immensely surprised and elated that Jared got a little more personal and pulled me in for a hug for the photo. I couldn’t get over what just happened, and my inner fan girl was doing cartwheels and somersaults. As the flash went out I courteously thanked Mr. Padalecki for the photo, to which he rubbed my back as he looked at me and said “Your welcome” in the friendliest, nicest way. I managed to keep my composure until we walked out of the photo op room, and once out, I  squee-ed like a 11 year old girl who had just met Justin Beiber.

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Truthfully, I know it’s their job and all- but you can honestly tell thettat both of these awesome guys truly LOVE what it is they are doing, and it was reiterated numerous times in their panel. They talked about how lucky they truly felt to have the opportunity to be able to meet their fans and hang out with their friends and have a good time while doing it simultaneously.  It’s not acting either- these guys truly love interacting with their fans.  While they were only there for one day, their whole day was devoted to their fans. Posing for pictures, meeting people for meet and greets, and entertaining us with hilarity in their panels.  At the ending ceremonies Louden Swain graced our ears with “It’s The End of the Con As We Know It” to which we all sang along “It’s the end of the con as we know it, and I feel saaaaad….”.

In all honesty, we were sad.  So much time went into planning and funding this amazing con, and so much energy was put forth, attending panels, and meeting and posing for photos with the celebs, that by 5 pm Sunday we were exhausted, sad, thrilled and really not looking forward to Monday.

I was pretty exhausted with a massive case of con hangover, tired beyond belief.  It didn’t help my job was pretty tiring too, and just as I was recuperating, it was time to leave for the next con- this time with just my husband…..

the next stop: Trot Con-in Columbus, Ohio.

 

Living the Dream: My Cosplay Journey Ep. 1

 

A good many years ago, a friend of my husband’s introduced us to the world of conventions. We live in Pittsburgh, and while I  knew what conventions were and consisted of, I had never been to one and was always the uncool kid because I wanted to go and nobody else shared this idea as something that would be totally rad.

My first convention was Steel City Con, a local comic and toy convention which has grown exponentially through the years. There weren’t as many  people dressed up as I had wished to see, but it was loads of fun wandering through the vendor tables and seeing all the cool nostalgic toys of my yesteryear, which brought back many memories. There were a few celebrities, nothing more than D or C list, since we are in Pittsburgh after all.  Still, even on a small scale, I loved it. It was something I’d always wanted to do, and was thrilled to be going.

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For the longest time, Steel City Con and TekkoshoCon were the only conventions around my area, and  Steel City Con was our regular con. When my husband discovered the Brony Fandom, and introduced me and my friends to the new generation on My Little Pony; the one that stemmed the fandom we know as Bronies- it would be the beginning of a convention and cosplay journey for me. I just didn’t know it yet.

My husband Jeff battled with being a Brony for some time, as lots of bronies do I guess. He was fearful others would find this wrong, or look down on him; for just liking a show because it’s target audience was little girls. I’m a big supporter of breaking gender roles and love and kindness, and MLP preaches these things in a way everyone can relate and understand. I could write an article alone on why MLP is great for adults as well as its intended audiences, but that’s another day.

Since becoming a fan of MLP, we discovered there was a massive convention dedicated to the Brony community, called what else- BronyCon. Jeff danced around with the idea, as he was still somewhat  uneasy about other’s feelings about his fandom. I encouraged him, we should go, and ask our friends if they’d want to go to. It would be fun, we could cosplay, and enjoy a weekend of nothing but love and tolerance, and fun. It was in Baltimore, Maryland which is nothing but a 3.5-4 hour drive. Our friends loved the idea of going to a convention solely based around one fandom, as we had been to “general” convention Steel City Con, and nothing else.
Jeff and I had been to TekkoshoCon once, an Anime and Gaming convention, which was still on a small scale, but more similar to the style of BronyCon.  When Jeff and I attended Tekko, we wore our Brony shirts and jeans, and were the outcasts. Everyone at Tekko was in cosplay, and every vendor table was stocked with cool kawaii (cute for all you non otaku’s out there) stuffed animals, waifu pillows (pillows with images of anime babes on them) JPOP (Japanese Pop Music), and loads of anime and video games merch.  There were panels, rooms that were playing anime feature films all day, gaming tables where you could play your DND, Yugi-Oh and Pokémon battles. I was like a kid who had died and gone to geek nerd heaven. There was even an arcade room, which Jeff made full use of. They had arcade versions of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles,  and Pac Man, and practically all the major consoles, and even a DDR station which Jeff went toe to toe with a girl in a Pikachu suit.
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While we had no idea what to expect with BronyCon, we knew we wanted to cosplay as our favorite ponies. Jeff’s favorite pony is  DJ Pon-3 aka Vinyl Scratch, the pony who is very loved in the fandom, and much fan content has been produced. The fandom in a way helped give DJ her identity, as Hasbro has taken some of the fandom’s speculations and made it cannon.
My favorite pony is Pinkie Pie, who the more I watch on the show am convinced is written and modeled after myself. Pinkie Pie is the pony of smiles and happiness, she throws awesome parties and is typically known as the party pony, and would do anything to see her friends smile. She’s also a little bit crazy, and as fun as she can be, she can get seriously depressed or even a bit psycho. She is a big 4th wall breaker, and lots of fun to laugh with and she is a little eccentric.

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Our friends went as FlutterBat (Fluttershy from the episode Bats, where she turns into a vampire pony essentially) and Rarity.

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We had all watched Heroes of Cosplay when it was o SyFy, so we were not new to the notion that cosplay was expensive, nor did we know how to sew or make costumes, so we bought all our pieces.  We learned our cosplay was called “closet cosplay” because it involved things you might find in your closet. My costume probably cost the most, around $150. I bought the tutu skirt, ears and hat on Etsy, the underskirt at Hot Topic, the wig at Epic Cosplay, and I got my pink converses from Journeys.  Jeff bought his hoodie and headphones from Hot Topic as well and got his converses as part of his wedding attire for our friend’s wedding, and got his wig and ears on Etsy as well.
BronyCon was massive. Cosplay everywhere,  vendors, so many panels.  Since my husband keeps up with the community, I do as well and we saw many popular bronies who produce lots of content for the fandom, and we sat in many panels from sing alongs to cosplay 101, to  Simon Says with Sunset Shimmer ( character from the Equestria Girls movie spinoffs).
We attended BronyPalooza, a concert put on that included the biggest brony musicians (yes that is a thing, look up Black Gryph0n and Mic the Micrphone, Mando Pony, Prince Whateverer, The Living Tombstone if you don’t believe me), and dined at a 4 star steakhouse in full cosplay.
I’d never been somewhere where I felt so unabashedly like myself. I was free, more than I had ever been to be myself, wearing a pink tutu and singing along to songs from a cartoon, taking pictures with many fans, and enjoying being with those who were just as geeky and fun as myself. When it was over, it was official: I had been bitten by the cosplay bug; I wanted more.

When we were at BronyCon, we didn’t expect to get stopped as much as we did. When you get stopped for pictures, you know it’s because people appreciate your character, and think your cosplay is good. Because Pinkie Pie is a favorite among the little ones, I got stopped by lots of young kids, who were shy to ask, so their parents did. Our group got stopped quite a bit, and this made me feel like a Disney Princess.  Seeing the smiles on the faces of the little girls, and older fans made me feel special in a way I had not felt before. I felt like my character Pinkie Pie would have felt, happiness because she made someone smile.

Because our cosplays were expensive, we wanted to get use out of them, so we attended a few local Steel City Con’s in our gear. Steel City Con has changed ALOT since the early days, cosplaying kept getting bigger and bigger here, and the convention itself started to get bigger. Bigger guests, more rooms, a cosplay contest.  Walking around SCC, we couldn’t get 5 feet without being stopped for photographs. The feeling that people liked our cosplays that much, fueled our cosplay drive. Then Wizard World announced they were coming to Pittsburgh.

For those of you unaware, or who have never seen Heroes of Cosplay, Wizard World is one of the biggest comic/pop culture conventions there is.  Here’s a breakdown, real quick of the top ranked conventions:
1. San Diego Comic Com aka SDCC- The biggest convention universally.  We’re talking everyone and everything.  Big name celebs go there to promote their new movie, companies go to promote their new movies, games, etc.LOTS of cosplay, cosplay stars, and contests. Thousands upon thousands of things to do and see. The Mega Mecha of conventions.
2. Dragon Con- held in Atlanta, Georgia, one of the biggest  if not the biggest Sci-Fi/Fantasy/Pop Culture/Comic convention. Big name celebs, LOTS of cosplay and themed events, lots to see and do.
3.Wizard World- these guys have cons in almost every state now. Last year was the first appearance in Pittsburgh, but they are all over.  Celebs vary per location, some like Philadelphia or New York get really big stars, while others get the ones that travel with the convention all the time. Lots of panels, lots of things to see and do, and lots of cosplay.

There are other conventions that are equally as big, such as New York Comic Con, MomoCon, and even E3, a convention solely for gamers and the newest gaming development.  They are starting to pop up literally everywhere.

Naturally, my friends and I wanted to go to Wizard World, and shelled out the $75 admission to get in. That was the most in admission we’d spent to date; with BronyCon being $70 per person, and SCC ranging from $12-$20.
Still it was worth it.  The celebs that joined Pittsburgh’s Wizard World Debut, were David Duchovny from the X Files, Adam Baldwin and Jewel Staite from Firefly, Eddie McClintock, and even Jason David Frank, the original Green Ranger from the Power Rangers. I got a photo with Jason David Frank, both 8×11 and a selfie, as well as his autograph for our Power Ranger cast photo.

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This time around, as you can clearly see, I cosplayed as Ariel, a life long dream of mine.  Growing up I was obsessed with The Little Mermaid and even as an adult I am still obsessed.  Wizard World at this point in my journey was the biggest pop culture/comic con I had been too. My friends Nicki and Dani (who cosplayed with us at BronyCon) dressed as a walker zombie and Chorus Girl #3 from Captain America.  We hadn’t even been in the building for more than 5 minutes when we were approached by a writer for the Pittsburgh Post Gazette. We even made a paragraph in the article.

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We were stopped continuously for pictures by fans and official photographers, and saw lots of cool cosplays, panels and merchandise. As stated in the article, we got some costume parts off Etsy again, which might I add is seriously one of the best places to get cosplay costumes and accessories.  My “tail” costs me a whopping $120 including shipping, and was a handmade commission for me by a designer on Etsy. Seriously, the quality of the tail alone was worth every penny. I also got my Ariel wig on Etsy.  Most character wigs, especially styled ones can be quite expensive; we are talking hundreds of dollars. In a sea of $125-$200 wigs I managed to score my wig from a seller on Etsy for $40. The bikini top is actually a bikini top to a mermaid swimsuit by Disney, which I got at Hot Topic.com for $18.00 The flesh colored panel is a strapless Spanx body shaper, which I added to the suit because I was nervous about having my torso exposed, and a bikini on. I had visions of wardrobe malfunctions, so I thought it best to put a panel on so the top would have something to adhere to, and in case of emergency I wouldn’t end up flashing everyone. Dani also got her chorus girl dress on Etsy.

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After Wizard World was over, all was quiet on the cosplay front for a good while, until about November or so. Nicki (aka Flutterbat and Zombie) and I were discussing wanting to venture to bigger cons, and the topic of Dragon Con came up. With a limited scope of tickets being on sale, we decided to purchase tickets. That was it, we were going to Atlanta, Georgia to one of the biggest conventions.  As if planning for a massive convention to another state wasn’t enough,  for the very first time Creation Entertainment announced that Supernatural Convention would be coming to Pittsbutrgh. My friends and I had always dreamed of going to Supernatural Convention since we’d heard it existed, but the closest one was always in Chicago. They were coming HERE. We had to go, no two ways about it, only one problem: Supernatural and Brony Con are the same weekend. My husband wanted to go to Brony Con again, and as much as I wanted to go back, I opted for the possible one time only appearance of Supernatural.  Jeff relented, and decided if we couldn’t go to Brony Con, we’d attend a different MLP convention, Trot Con, located in Columbus Ohio. 3 Conventions. Trot Con  and Supernatural both in July,  In addition to Dragon Con in September. Then Wizard World announced their return to Pittsburgh, and it was decided that we would go to Wizard World and display our new cosplays. 4 Conventions.  Then Replay FX announced their return to the ‘burgh. Since Jeff and I weren’t able to attend the massive gaming convention last year this year was a must. 5 conventions.

I have 5 conventions to attend this year. I just paid off Supernatural, which might I add was WAY more expensive than any of us could have guessed, but will be completely worth it.  Our admission has been purchased, our photo packages already bought, and my cosplay is only missing it’s shoes and accessories. I will be cosplaying as “Samantha” Winchester (the female version of Sam), Nicki will be cosplaying as Dean, and Dani will be channeling Baby, The Impala. For  Dragon Con I will be cosplaying as Ariel again, but this time human Ariel, in her iconic blue dress she wears on her date with Prince Eric, as well as Poison Ivy from Batman. Poison Ivy is the first costume I will be making myself from ready made materials, and last but not least Jeff and I will be cosplaying together as Princess Cadence and Shining Armor, the royal couple from MLP.

I can’t believe I committed myself to this many conventions or cosplays, and as broke as it will take me I know it will be completely worth it. I don’t have children yet, so I can afford to spend the money on costumes and conventions, and that’s ok.  I’ve been waiting my whole life for everyone to jump on board with me with these things, and finally I am able to share these things with those who are closest to me. In high school, in my anime days, I longed and dreamed of the day conventions would be in my hometown, and I could dress as a Sailor Scout, but I knew nothing like that existed here, and my friends questioned my sanity at the mention of “cosplay”. Before the availability of social media and the expanse of what the internet had to offer,  fandoms were small tight knit groups, and you were lucky to find someone who was interested in your “fandom” as well, especially if you lived in Pittsburgh.  The memories I have made while cosplaying and convention going, will be with me forever, and make me smile when I am older and possibly have children of my own. My costumes will hang in my closet as a reminder that I can be whoever I want, and that my age does not define who I am inside. So many people loose touch with their inner child the older they get, but I refuse to shove her aside.

I’ll keep touch and update on the next part of my cosplay journey; taking you through the cons I attend this summer, and you can read and experience this newfound passion of mine through my eyes. I hope you enjoyed reading how I came into all this, and that you continue to read my little musings here on Plastic Stars & Pixel Hearts. Thanks again, and until next time!