Conventions 101

Please note that, I no longer do written reviews here. If you want to check out my latest stuff I have moved to YouTube under my art name Morbid Heart Designs

This is a blog idea that has floated around in my head for a while and Amazing Comic Con reached out to me about writing this for the Las Vegas event June 23rd to 26th, 2017 I thought why not!

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Geek Girl 2016 Star Wars Meet Up

The words Comic Con and conventions have become a common word in the nerd and geek communities especially with the rise of geek and pop culture. Big cities and small towns a like now have their own Comic Cons and the Mecca of all Comic Cons in San Diego is even harder to get passes for. Conventions of every sort from steampunk to TV shows like Super Natural are rising in their own popularity and each convention has so much to offer! Panels, celebrity signatures and photos, meet ups, dances, vendors, artists, costume contest, fashion shows, and gaming rooms. Some even offer concerts or special events depending on their emphasis. There is so much to see and do that you may feel overwhelmed depending on the size of the con. Needless to say there are reasons why most cons span three to four days! If you have never been to a convention you might not know where to begin. If you are wondering this is the blog for you!

What to do pre-con? First thing to know and realize is that unless you are attending a small con you may not be able to do everything you would like. I recommend deciding your top, most important, and exciting things you want to do. And a few back up options as well. I start with looking at panels. If my favorite celebrities have anything special scheduled. I also check planned meet ups because it’s always fun to meet people passionate about the same things you are. As a cosplayer I also look through social media for any cosplay photo meet ups as these are usually not arranged by the convention and are genre, or fandom, themed so people are in similar costumes. Some events, like dating events and costume contest, require preregistration so keep this in mind and be aware of the deadlines for these events. These extra events may also have additional fees to participate. For example, some steampunk convention have a fee for tea parties or tea duels because of the added cost of food and drink.

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I met so many other Wonder Woman fans it was amazing! So much love and fandom! Emerald City Comic Con 2016

If you are terrible with time management and remembering things some cons now have phone apps that allow you to select the scheduled events and set a reminder. Usually these are available closer to the convention date. What ever you decide to do remember that rooms can only hold so many people at once so there are caps on the number of attendees. Make sure to plan enough time to get the location of the event and be prepared to set in line.

Now that you know what you want to do plan you budget! Or even do this before you know what you would like to do. Allocate money for food and how much you have to spend with vendors or artists.

I also recommend finding a friend(s) to go with! You may already have a friend or two into this sort of thing or the type of con want to go to. Cons can be a lot of fun, I have gone solo and in groups, but I have found having friends to share the experience with makes it better.

When it gets closer to con time about a week before I start an immune boosting regimen. I also take take this during and for a week after con. For me this is increasing my water intake and taking a vitamin c supplement every day, twice a day! There are over the counter items you can take to boost your immunity or you can adjust your diet for healthier nutritious foods. Do your research and find what options work best for your own health and lifestyle.

If you bought new shoes for your adventure (causal con goer or cosplayer) make sure to break these in before con.

You have waited for months or maybe close to a year for the convention and the time has come for your adventure!  The most important thing you can do, no matter how many days you are going to a con, is self care! For me this is important as a cosplayer and casual con goer. If you aren’t feeling well then you won’t enjoy yourself! After all that is why you are going right?! To have an adventure!

What do I mean by self care? I will break it down.

  1. Hydrate. Carry a water bottle on you or make sure you have budget enough to purchase this at the venue. Purchasing can get expensive just to warn you. Getting dehydrated at conventions is no fun! You increase your chances of getting con crud and it just makes it harder to enjoy yourself.
  2. Bring snacks. Personally, I like to bring protein bars, gogurt (which can be frozen and help keep other items you might pack cold), those amazing pouches of applesauce, and string cheese. These are small so they are easy to carry in back pack or purse. I personally recommend higher protein options and healthy snacks. But I also have friends who pack higher carbohydrate foods because that is what works for them.
  3. Allow yourself to take a break. Sit down for few minutes throughout the day. Leave the convention hall if you find the amount of stimulation too much.
  4. Make sure to schedule time to eat meals! Even if it may be in your hotel room. Put a reminder in you phone if you don’t think you will remember this.
  5. Personal hygiene! Take a shower every day. This is for your own physical and mental health and for the courtesy of others. This is another component of not getting con crud.
  6. Also, make sure you go to the bathroom when you have the opportunity, especially
    in costume. Because you may be arrested by a bunch of Star Wars Mandos and locked in a cage when you already delayed taking care of this vital function. Believe it or not this literally happened to me.


    You think I am joking but I am not. I really had to pee! I spent like 30 minutes helping a lost girl and when it finally was okay to go about my business I get a text. Stay where you are. Next thing I know all of the Mandalorian Mercs at the con surround me. March me through the con and lock me in the cage. Where my sweet husband purposed to me. And the whole time I had to really pee!  I told him if he ever purposed he had to make it memorable and he totally came through! Salt Lake Comic Con 2013

  7. If you have medications you take daily do not forget to take these! Put a reminder in you phone if needed! I have a medical condition myself and I pack extra everything even if I am at the con for one day! If you would like to read more about that I have a blog focusing on this topic.
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Geek Girl Science Activity Center 2016

I always bring a back pack (usually it is smaller so it doesn’t distract from my cosplay). I recommend you do the same. Here are my recommendations of what to put in it.

  1. Make sure to have cash on you for food in case a vendor or restaurant run into issues with the credit card machines. Or in case you have a transportation issue and need to pay for a service home or to your hotel. Since this emergency based money I keep it away from my spending money.
  2. Have a small first aid kit. Conventions do have first aid areas but it never hurts to have this on hand.
  3. I know some cosplayers and con goers who even being deodorant with them.
  4. I pack a portable phone charger too. I have friends who pack multiple chargers. Mainly because we like to play PokémonGo and it really drains batteries at convention. But also so if we need to contact a friend we have the means to.

Other tips for cons.

  1. I have been at several conventions that there are so many people cell phone towers can’t process the amount of calls so phones do not work at all. I recommend having a meeting time and location with your con adventuring buddies to check in on each other. Especially if there are children involved. I have helped a child I didn’t know get through a crowd for 60,000 people to the information desk to locate her family because they were separated in the crowd and their cell phone didn’t work. It was an extremely unpleasant experience for the kid.
  2. If I have never been to a convention location before I like to get a layout of the place on the first day. Things I figure out: Where can I find food inside the convention?
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    Steamposium 2016

    Bathrooms? Panel areas? A quiet space in case I need a break? Alcohol ? If the con has a TakeThis’ AKF room where is it located? If you have anxiety issues this can be your best friend!

  3. Be aware of the cons harassment policy. Especially in cosplay. Many cons have very strict rules around this. If you do not feels safe or you are being harassed speak with a security guard or con staff.
  4. Be nice to the con staff. 90% of the time these are volunteers who are giving up their con experience so you can have one. And some of them have given up months of their lives to make this happen.
  5. Sometimes you can haggle with dealers on the last day. Many would rather sell their wares then haul it back home. But if you really want something and there are only a few of the item. Don’t wait. Once it’s gone it is gone and chances are rare items won’t be there the last day.

If it’s your first time cosplaying here are a few pointers!

  1. If you have high heels or uncomfortable shows bring an extra more comfortable set. If I have to walk from my hotel to the con I have slip on shoes or flip flops for this. These are small enough that they fit nicely into my little back pack. My feet particularly appreciate this after walking the con floor in heels!
  2. Check the dress code and weapon policies so that you don’t get asked to change/leave or have the weapon you worked hard on making taken away. Each con has different rules so make sure you look into these.
  3. If you need a break it is okay to deny pictures. Just be polite about it. Remember you are a patron too!
  4. Bring an emergency costume repair kit. Some conventions have cosplay first aid stations now but they may not have what you need.
  5. Remember to get pictures of your costume! Either on your phone or schedule a photo shot with a photographer. If a photographer gets your picture at the con don’t be afraid to ask for a business card. Many photographers do this for a hobby and would be happy to let you download the file. If you want to have guaranteed files defiantly schedule with a photographer.
  6. If you have something time sensitive I recommend not going in costume. It’s so much easier to get through the crowd without a costume.
dragon con 2013

Dragon Con 2013

The second most important thing about any convention is to have FUN!!!!!!

If you are interested in checking out Amazing Con Las Vegas but aren’t sure about travel to this convention make sure to check out their about them page for hours, location, panels, and programming or  these travel deals. Many conventions also have these type of information on their websites.

Hero Behind the Mask: Erika Earl

I am please to share with you the first of the Heroes Behind the Mask series for 2016! Since I am also writing for Cosplayer Among Us Magazine this will only be a monthly release.

I am very excited to introduce you to Erika! She teamed up with the amazing and kind hearted owner of the Penalty Box in Salt Lake City to raise money for a cause near and dear to her own heart! They were very successful! Keep reading to find out just how successful her event was! Not only has she found time to raise money for a great cause but this cosplayer also works with Salt Lake Comic Con in additional to her other life obligations! She was kind enough to talk about all these busy things in her life!-Mala

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Name: Erika Earl

What got you into CAUSEplaying?
The people that I get to Causeplay with

What keeps you CAUSEplaying?
The events get better each time and it’s fun to see the progress.

What was your first CAUSEplay event?
It was a Make A Wish Dreamnight at the Hogle Zoo

What is your favorite costume to wear while CAUSEplaying, and Why? It depends, if it’s for children definitely my fairy.

Most memorable CAUSEplay moment(s) : All of the Causeplayers on the Carousel at the zoo together.

What is your favorite cause to support and what have you done for them? I personally fund raise for the National MS Society because I have MS and it is a cause that means a lot to me.

The silliest/strangest thing you have done for a cause?
I can’t really think of anything I consider silly. Everything is fun if you look at it the right way.

Who inspires you in life or cosplay?
All of the cosplayers I know inspire me in cosplay. In life I’m inspired by anyone who has the courage to be their true self.

Advice for CAUSEplaying: Don’t be afraid to beg.

What CAUSEplay events do you have coming up?
Nothing until next year that I know of but you never know what will happen.

You recently had a CAUSEplay event what is your event called? We change the name every year but it relates to MS and Cosplay

Why did you choose MS for this event?
I was diagnosed with MS over 12 years but because I don’t look sick it’s really hard to spread awareness. All of the money raised went to the national MS society 

Why did you choose to host this at the Penalty Box and how do you think this choice influenced your events success?
Bill Rowe is a good friend and Neff Michael’s fund raising enthusiasm is inspirational. There are no two people I would rather work with more for this event. (Note from Mala, Neff was previously interviewed for his own CAUSEPlay efforts so please check out that interview as well!)

 photo Capture_zpsx4wtqg60.jpg Please tell us the process to making this event happen.
This year was a little easier because it wasn’t the first time around. After getting in touch with Bill and Neff and getting the okay to have the event at the penalty box I rounded up raffle donations, I had help from friends and Geek Hangout Utah on that. Salt Lake Comic Con created the flyer that I both posted and passed out and from there it was pretty easy.

What would you say was unique about your event ?
We try to incorporate as much orange for MS as possible. This year we had orange mardi gras beads and orange glow sticks. Most of the pictures had some form of orange.

How much did you raise for MS in total?
We raised $1701.00 in two nights.

Do you see yourself doing something like this again?
I do, next year we will be back.

If someone is interested in creating an event like yours what advice do you have?
Don’t be afraid to ask for help and don’t be afraid to get told no and keep going.

You mentioned that you also volunteer for Salt Lake Comic Con, tell us what you do for them? What is it like?
I am the Director of volunteers for Salt Lake Comic Con, It is the most amazing job I have ever had. I thrive on chaos and love the event so much.

How important are volunteers for conventions from your perspective? The volunteers are incredibly important for the event. With such a large group of volunteers you would probably be surprised at haw hard each one of them works.

Salt Lake Comic Con seems to have a heavy focus on cosplay, how do you think that has shaped the Utah cosplay community?
It has made everyone feel welcome and as if they have a place in the event.

Do you prefer to be called a cosplayer or costumer? Cosplayer

What was your first costume/cosplay? A Zombie

What is your dream cosplay?
There are a lot of them but a Mandalorian is pretty high on the list

How do you feel you have influenced the cosplay community?
I hope I’ve convinced new people to join the community.

What is your day job (a.k.a. how I pay for my expensive hobby)?
I’m an executive secretary at a cancer hospital and I am the director of volunteers for Salt Lake Comic Con

If you could have any job what would it be and why?
I like the jobs I have [Symbol]

Tell us something random about yourself: I have more pets than any one person should probably have and I love them all.

Star Wars or Star Trek: Star Wars

Marvel or DC: DC

Favorite Comic Series: Batman

Favorite Comic Character: The Joker

Least favorite comic character and why? Superman, he just annoys me

Favorite Book: Coraline or the Graveyard Book

Favorite Video Game: Plants versus Zombies (any of them)

Favorite Convention: Salt Lake Comic Con

Facebook: Erika’s adventures in Cosplay

The Hero Behind the Mask: ERT Ghostbusters

We all remember Ghostbusters growing up.  Either the cartoon, toys, or movies!  But did you know there are amazing people who dress up as Ghostbusters to support local charities?  Today I want to introduce you to the ERT (experimental research team) Ghostbusters.  I have the pleasure of meeting and doing several charity events with them throughout the years.  This group has some amazing philosophies discussed in todays interview with creator Robert “Buma” Aswin!  Plus they just know how to have fun.    So, who are you going to call? GHOSTBUSTERS!

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Group Name: ERT Ghostbusters

Mission Statement:
When I started this fan club/group in 2009, I was exploring a niche in modernizing Ghostbuster equipment for the time ahead and the future. In my travels meeting with other clubs, new people, and those that joined my club, I discovered fandom reaches all ages and levels of the human experience. This in turn made me realize that fandom is family. No matter how much we like, hate, or fight with others in our fandom, we all join together when outsiders rail against us and that is what family is all about. Only family should be allowed to fight with each other.

But my greatest joy is when I see people connect in this fandom and broaden their experiences with each other. That would include: friendship, romance, and other relationships.
I hope by seeing it will inspire others to continue to pursuing their fandoms no matter what genre it is. Those that are in this fandom, become better allies instead of the dark forces that work against you.

Robert “Buma” Aswin
Corporate Director of Operations
Founder of ERT-Ghostbusters

ERT Ghostbusters (Corp) located at Salt Lake City, UT
ERT Ghostbusters – OOPS Branch located at Ogden, UT
ERT Ghostbusters – SETI Branch located at Denver, CO
ERT Ghostbusters – CTA Branch located at Colorado Springs, CO

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When was the group started?
Est. in 2009 the Experimental Research Team (ERT) for Ghostbusters was born, bringing new projects & Proton Packs to life and helping out at Community events too.
And by who? Robert “Buma” Aswin

What inspired you to create Ghostbusters or CAUSEplay in general?
First of all, Ghostbusters is very iconic, after 30 years the No Ghost logo is third in the world to being in recognition to Pepsi and Coke. I also had a love of Ghostbusters since I was I n my teens, I remember building my first cosplay as a Ghostbuster with a Nike track suit, a backpack with a tube and a flashlight connected to it, plus a ghost trap made out of a show box. I also loved the car, everyone loves the car.

I had tried to start a Ghostbusters group in West Texas around 2006, but due to the lack of responses and being forced to move back to Utah because of hardships, I decided to start another group and the idea for the Experimental Research Team Ghostbusters was born. After so many years, I wanted to envision what “modern” Ghostbuster gear would look like.

With that philosophy, the gear we have has the essence of the original gear from the movies, but with our twist on it.

If you are a member of the Ghostbusters what made you want to join this particular group or CAUSEplay?
Brief history/overview: Since 2009, we have promoted the Utah CoOp, Utah Fallen Officers fund, Make a Wish foundation, Hope Kids and other charity groups. For every event, we pick a different charity to promote and generate funds for.

We have been at all three Salt Lake Comic Con events, Fantasy-Con and several local events.

I believe that the local charities need a voice when compared to National charities.

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Do you have a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization status or other designation? No.

And are you looking into getting a 501(c)3 status? Not at this time.

If not, do you consider yourself a charity group or just a group of friend who do good?
The funds we collect does go directly to the charity and we get a receipt.

How can someone join ERT Ghostbusters?
Anyone wishing to join can send an email to Once we receive the email, we will send out a membership application (It’s digital) and the group handbook. The person just needs to fill it out and email back to the group. If they are in an area that does not have an ERT Branch, we have guidelines on how to start their own branch in that area.

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What type of costumes do you accept?
The handbook outlines the various outfits that we accept, from the standard flightsuit and gear to business suit or a lab rat outfit.

Do you have a costume approval process, if so what is it?
The initial process is to provide an outfit that looks like it belongs in the Ghostbusters universe.

What do you look for in a costume?
The essence of the look that the outfit could exist in the Ghostbusters Universe and documentation on how it can function in that universe.

Do you have people willing to help with the costume making process or a resource guide to help with the process? (I.E. where to fund jumpsuits, patches, where can you buy a proton pack or find steps to make one, etc. )
As I have said to my group, do not try to re-invent the wheel, someone has already done it somewhere. I keep a personal list of links of where to find things for the group, plus a list of items needed to build their proton pack for the group. The group just needs to ask.

Do you guys create personas? Or just be yourselves? Background character stories or things like that?
We are just ourselves, but I do know that we are the only Ghostbusters group that goes by Callsigns. Like, I’m Buma, my wife is Kendle and so forth. That is what we put on our flightsuit.

Leadership structure: I do have a council of Directors that I answer to, that way the decisions for the group is not made by one person.

The positions that I have are as listed –
Corporate Director of Human Relations – Dan “Oni” Kauffman (Team Leader of CTA Branch)
Corporate Director of Research and Development – Joshua “Omi” Dees (Team Leader of SETI Branch)
Corporate Director of Franchise Operations – Stephanae “Maiden” Turner
Corporate Director of Finances – Andrew “Tully” Marsh

How is the leadership determined?
Most positions are appointed with an approval of the Council. The local branches have a Team Leader and a local Events coordinator. The Team Leader position fills out an application and submits it to the Council for approval. The events coordinator is appointed by the Local Team Leader. The Team Leader reports to the Corporate Director of Franchise Operations.

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What have you done for charities (types of events)?
Since 2009, we have promoted the Utah CoOp, Utah Fallen Officers fund, Make a Wish foundation, Hope Kids, Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation and other charity groups. For every event, we pick a different charity to promote and generate funds for.

We have been at all three Salt Lake Comic Con events, Fantasy-Con, Ogden Zombie Crawl for the past 5 years and several local events.

I believe that the local charities need a voice when compared to National charities.

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Do you create your own event or make appearance when requested?
Both, we have group events like a holiday party for members and also being contacted to represent our groups at conventions.

How did you build you “clientele”?
Word of mouth, in the beginning we contacted groups and asked if they wanted a group to promote their events, some said yes and some said no. Eventually we made ourselves known and go to events when we can. Our busiest time frame is from April-November.

My group has made a decision to not hold events at retirement homes, we felt saying “We’ll see you soon.” Would just be bad sounding.

Do you have particular organization or cause you work with regularity?
As I stated before, we choose different charities for every events, but we do enjoy helping with the Utah Fallen Officer’s fund, since our sister group the Umbrella Corp – Utah Hive supports that as their primary charity.

How much money has the ERT Ghostbusters raised for the organization it works with?
The amount varies with each charity.

What is the most amazing thing ERT Ghostbusters has accomplished so far?
Meeting Ernie Hudson (Winston Zeddemore from Ghostbusters) and making him and Honorary ERT member.

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Where do you see ERT Ghostbusters going in the future? Expansion and further promoting our personal motto that Fandom is Family.

Do you use any fun terminology specifically ERT Ghostbusters?
No, not really, but when we do create background documentation for anything, we try to create plausible explanations for things, which does include pseudo-science terminology.

Do you have advice for someone interested in creating a CAUSEplay group or getting into CAUSEplay?
First of all, have a love for what you are doing. No matter how bad things get within a club, always remember that it all started out with love for what you wanted to do and everyone in the group has that same love.

One memorable thing about the Ghostbuster movies is the car. Do you guys have one?
I have had three cars built since I started my group, but in the Ectomobile community, they have the nickname of Wrectomobiles. Everyone person that has ever built one has had some kind of damage done to them, the cars don’t last long.

Here are the three cars I have built –

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Anything else you want to add about your group or CAUSEplay:
The best thing about being a Ghostbuster, you don’t need to be a specific body type to be a Ghostbuster.

What future events do you have?
After October, everything comes to a slow crawl. We just have events for members and go to rebuilding things for the club and getting ready for the next season of events.

If someone wanted to reach you for more information who should they talk to and how can they reach you?
FacebookMain Fan Page  Salt Lake City, UT
OOPS Branch  Ogden, UT
CTA Branch Colorado Springs, CO
SETI Branch  Denver, CO
Twitter: ERTGBHQ


Let me know how you are getting involved! I want to hear your stories!! And adventures!! Or tell me about a CAUSEplayer or a group you think are making a difference! Email with your stories! If sending info on an individual person please let them know you have done so, to reduce the creep factor of a stranger contacting them for a potential interview.