Tag Archives: cosplay

How to Prepare for a Convention

Hi everyone!

I’m still drafting my report on BayCon, but realized that post was getting rather lengthy. Here I’m going to a breakdown of how I prepared for that convention, and what I would have done differently.

First, let me make a distinction between a convention and a conference. To my mind, a convention is a fan event, where you’re going to interact with people in and out of the industry for the purpose of fun, enjoyment and sharing. A conference is primarily a business and networking event, designed to help you move to the next stage of your career through information sessions, networking, and formal pitching events (or similar.)

That may not be a textbook definition, and there is certainly some overlap. I’ve made most of my professional connections at conventions. But that’s not our quibble today!

Here’s how to prepare for a convention — a fun, fan event — as a pro.

1. If you’re speaking on panels or giving a presentation
Make friends with the organizers. See what they’re expecting of you. Reach out to others who are speaking on the same panel as you, and get to know them. Read their work. It helps to know how the discussion will go, so that you can prepare relevant information.

2. Prepare relevant information
If you’re going to an instructional workshop, have your notes with you. Simplify and break them down into small chunks the audience can follow without getting lost — but don’t go overboard. Generally, you’re not lecturing. Find a balance between being informative and entertaining.

3. If you’re moderating a panel for others
Read their work. Check out their web sites. You should be able to give a brief introduction of each person — or better yet — be able to use their accomplishments as a starting point to introduce the topics of discussion. Prepare more questions than you need. One method of question-prep is to list out every question that comes to mind on the topic, and then erasing all the boring ones. Remember, you’re there to facilitate them; not hog the spotlight yourself.

4. Clothing and Costuming
This is something I’m still figuring out**, so I invite your comments and suggestions.
Generally speaking, if you’re going to be at a convention as a pro, you should dress the part. I’m a little put off by the idea of setting a glass wall between me and other people — fans, pros, or otherwise — but Kevin Andrew Murphy once said, “it’s not so much a glass wall as costuming as your authorial persona. Don’t wear anything on a panel that you wouldn’t want for your dust jacket photo. Dressy casual is good.”
Of course, dressy casual is relative.

I’ve had mixed responses as far as, say, a fairy costume. Some fans thought it was great, and made me more approachable — whereas other pros were less impressed, and saw it as a reason not to take me seriously. Consider who you’re dressing for. That said, the convention you go to might have costumed events such as a masquerade ball, or regency dance party. Dressing up at night for parties is generally acceptable.

5. Supplies
FOOD: Hotel food is expensive. I usually pack my own, as though I were going camping.
RECORDING EQUIPMENT: I also pack extra notebooks to take notes on panels (even the ones I speak on, you never know what you’ll learn from the folks you’re sitting next to.) It’s also a good idea to take a camera or minirecorder if you want to recap your performance to see how you can improve. Always ask for permission to record, of course.
MISC: Band-aids, painkillers, allergy medicine, needle & thread, bathing suit, extra socks — prepare for it all.
CASH: Again, sort of a no-brainer. Between the dealer’s room, the parties, and meals, having cash in your pocket, rather than your whole bank account on a card, is a quick way to budget your weekend.

It’s always better to over-prepare and not need it, than to under-prepare and get caught with your pants down. Remember, whether you’re there to make friends or to sell your books, conventions should be FUN. All the prep you do should be to self-facilitate, and make the live experience as smooth as possible.

 

How do you do it? Did I miss anything important?

dance

Carrie Sessarego of Geek Girl in Love. http://geekgirlinlove.com/

** With regard to costuming… this probably merits a post all its own. Wearing costumes is easily one of my favorite things about conventions, and the prospect of them being off-limits deeply saddens me. I dressed up as a yellow fairy for two reasons: I have a story coming out from Fey Publishing this June, and wanted to promote that. Also, I have a friend named Fritz, and I had to make a joke referencing Bakshi’s animated film, “Wizards.”

fritz

“They’ve killed Fritz! Those lousy stinking yellow fairies! Those horrible atrocity-filled vermin! Those despicable animal warmongers! They’ve killed Fritz!” – Wizards (1977)

Here’s a quote to contradict Murphy’s, regarding my costumes specifically:

I thought you did an excellent job with the two panels I attended. Your personal excitement and passion for the subjects made them much more accessible than they otherwise might have been. The entire panel on building your writing community was easily the best at the con. The chemistry of the panelists and the sensitivity that each of you all brought to the subject was model perfect. Frankly the “glass wall” can (in some cases) hinder the process. Of course we attend panels primarily to listen and learn, but we also go to engage and respond. The audience’s “yes” and “Ah’s” as well as the questions are what bring such panels to life.”  – Andrew Roberts

wings

I wasn’t the only one with wings.

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Worbla Halloween Mask

This year I have to wait until after Halloween to go trick-or-treating because it’s convention time.

This weekend is Convolution, featuring guests of honor Brian & Wendy Froud who helped bring Labyrinth and The Dark Crystal to life. I’ll get to meet lots of creative pros from writers and costumers to fire-dancers and falconers. The convention theme this year is the Realm of Dreams. Saturday can only mean one thing:  the Goblin King’s Masquerade Ball.

I don’t own any dresses, or masks for that matter.

What I did have was a grab-bag of steel and leather armor pieces, and some thermoplastic scrap worbla left over from another project. Making a mask with worbla is super easy, just grab your heat gun and get to work.

MASK CONSTRUCTION!

1.  Make a pattern out of paper.  Put it on your face. Look in the mirror. See if it makes you happy.  If not, cut it up.

  • I folded the fangs under to make them more symmetrical, and decided that I liked the look so I kept it.
  • I aimed for a combo of sharp edges and curving, organic shapes — somewhere between Maximus’ helmet from Gladiator, and the wrought-iron beauty of a Nazgul crown.
  • Scaling back the design was necessary, because I hate stuff on my face and wanted to minimize the weight.
  • Make sure that your pattern conforms to the shape of your face, including the bridge of your nose.

Base mask with cheek spikes folded under. Top strip will become ‘crown’ pieces.

2. Cut out your pattern, trace it onto the worbla with a sharpie marker.

3. Cut out the your worbla mask. Worbla is very thin, like the kind of cardboard they use for cereal boxes. General-use scissors will do you fine. If you have to cut fine details, use an x-acto knife or razor blade that’s spent some time under the heat gun. Warm knife through butter.

4. Heat up the worbla with a heat gun and press it to your face so it’s nice and form-fitting.

  • Protip:  make sure it still fits no matter what your mood. I tried to smile in it after I’d finished, and my cheeks shoved the mask right into my eyes. Not very dignified. Now you know why Batman’s so unhappy. Can’t smile in his mask.

5. Use the heat gun gently on the decorative and base pieces until they’re warm but not floppy. Press the shiny sides together, no adhesive necessary.

Remember what I said about your pattern actually conforming to your face? The strip across my cheek wasn’t long enough to attach to the nose-guard. I cut out and affixed a little bridge piece. You can pinch the plastic together like clay until it cools. Flaws add character to rugged, barbaric costumes. It’s the princess dresses that suck to make.

I

Messy, but not unfixable. Trim off excess and sand smooth if desired.

6. Check for symmetry, string-holes and other details.  If your mask doesn’t conform to your face, you can re-heat and re-shape it once or twice more.  After that it gets too thin. If you have leftover worbla snippets, you can heat them up and sculpt them like clay. I added one to each cheek to make it look welded.

7. Hey, a mask!  Let’s paint!

Sittin’ pretty.

8. I used Rub ‘n Buff wax metallic finish to make it look like steel.

  • Gesso was not necessary with the wax finish. Nor was a seal.
  • I tried pewter and silver leaf RNB, and settled on silver. Pewter is a bit darker, and looked more like stone than metal.
  • Apply with a Q-tip in little circles.  Make sure you rub it in really well, a little drop will cover a few inches of surface area, and you don’t want it to rub off.

9. To get the patina, I used black acrylic paint and spit. Normal people use paint and water. Maybe the fumes got to me.

  • Darken the negative space to make your decorative details stand out.
  • Very lightly dry-brush black acrylic paint around the eyes, cheeks, teeth, and any other parts that would regularly come in contact with human grime.

Spit not pictured.

Check out your handiwork under different types of light to make sure you achieved the effect you wanted.

Combine that mask with black studded gauntlets, one segmented steel pauldron, black leather thigh-boots and a $12 black dress and you are all set to invade the Goblin Masquerade.  Dressed for a pit fight. Oops.

In the realm of dreams, I’ll rep the nightmares any day.

50+ likes on this post by Thanksgiving, and I’ll upload a snapshot of the whole getup.

The shadow is not inherently evil. If it is ignored or denied, it may become monstrous to compensate. Only then is it likely to “demonically possess” its owner, leading to compulsive, exaggerated, “evil” behavior.”
–  Rob Brezsny

All war is deception.”
– Sun Tzu