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Zenkaikon 2018: Thia’s First Con Experience

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I recently got to have one of the best experiences of my life thus far. That was my first time at a convention. I am so glad my first con was Zenkaikon in Lancaster, PA. Lancaster is a great town with lots to offer con goers, so it was the perfect place for Zenkaikon.

To be honest, I was anxious going into Zenkaikon. I am not fond of crowds. I had never done press at a large event before. I just wasn’t really sure what to expect when I walked through the doors. I was grateful to know that I had friends with me in Vanri and Crymson. I also was lucky enough to have some friends waiting inside.

I was greeted by the truly awesome staff right off the bat. These volunteers really made this convention experience for me. They were always patient. They looked out for guests and patrons alike.

me conMy first panel was called; “Overcoming Con Anxiety.” I attended it with Vanri, who wrote a more in-depth look at the panel but I can tell you that it was full of helpful tips. This panel was a great way to start off my first convention.

There were a lot of firsts during the convention. I had my first bowl of real Ramen, which was amazing. I went to my first burlesque show with Cosplay Burlesque. I got to help with press interviews. I met new friends and got to see old ones. I stepped outside my comfort zone and opened up to new experiences.

I had a wonderful time and cannot wait for next year. I was in a place where I got to share my love of anime with some really cool people. If you have never been to a convention please do yourself a favor and go.

I do have some tips for you, though. Bring water and stay hydrated, friends. Make sure you have some healthy food with you, too, as food can get expensive and too much sugar will just make you crash. Have friends with you. A huge help for me was knowing where my friends where and if I got nervous they were there. Take a breath. Find a place where you can take some time away if you need it. There are plenty of corners to take a few moments if you need to.

Take some chances. I am glad I did. Have fun. Enjoy the chaos. Remember why you are there; to enjoy the things you love.

Zenkaikon was a wonderful experience. I am so grateful to the staff for making me feel so welcome. I am also happy that I went to Zenkaikon. It was probably the best first convention experience I could have had! Hope to see you there next year.

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Always keep sparkling!

 

Zenkaikon 2018: Bullying in Fandom Panel

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The Knights of Fandom are a Tumblr-based group that fights bullying in fandom groups online. It was started by Lady Norbert, who found that a lot of her Tumblr community was experiencing bullying. Naturally, she got mad about it and decided to do something about it.

I discovered The Knights of Fandom at Zenkaikon 2018. They gave a panel on Bullying in Fandom that I just had to attend, given our own work in anti-bullying. The panel outlined what cyberbullying looks like in fandom groups, the difference between bullying and constructive criticism, and what we as fandom members can do to prevent bullying, stop bullying, and show support to the person being bullied.

It was a short panel, but full of insightful information. Lady Norbert was funny and entertaining, touching and knowledgeable. She wanted nothing more than to unite the various fandoms of Tumblr against bullying. Her tips included:

  • Spread kindness. Reach out to those who are bullied and show them love.
  • If you’re going to criticize, make sure it’s constructive and not destructive.
  • Defend others, speak up – stick together!
  • Remove yourself from toxic online situations.
  • Make friends with other members in your fandom, especially those who are bullied.

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You can find the Knights of Fandom valiantly protecting the Tumblr fandoms here. You can also find them on Facebook and Twitter.

Zenkaikon 2018: Overcoming Con Anxiety Panel

IMG_2836The lovely Aniyah Lyszt and Levy Cross of Pleasant Nightmare Entertainment gave a wonderfully insightful panel on overcoming con anxiety. It’s no secret that I have a decent amount of anxiety. This anxiety is a big factor in why I became a part of the gaming/nerd communities. I rarely have to go outside or be around people to enjoy my hobby. Fewer people equals less anxiety. Perfect.

While Zenkaikon is not the biggest con I’ve been to, it still produces a crowd bigger than my anxiety can handle. When I saw that there was going to be a panel called Overcoming Con Anxiety on the very first day, I jumped at it.

Aniyah and Levy had a wealth of knowledge on the subject. They turned the panel into a discussion, which helped those anxiety-ridden panel audience members to participate. They were funny and had relevant stories that made me laugh. And to speak to their experience, they carried on despite the extremely loud Steven Universe sing-a-long next door.

A highlight was definitely Aniyah Lyszt asking the staff member if they were sacrificing a baby next door and to see if they could wait until she got over there so she could join the party.

Reminds me of someone…

ANYWAY!

The panel was full of tips and tricks to help yourself handle a lot of the anxiety that comes along with conventions. The majority of their advice was to basically stay on top of the things you can control, which will make the things you can’t control far less overwhelming. Some of their advice included:

  • Give yourself plenty of time, don’t rush!
  • Don’t set high expectations – be realistic!
  • Stop thinking of the worst case scenario.
  • Research the con prior to going (ie. size, location, reviews, etc.)
  • DO NOT PROCRASTINATE!

 

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The panel helped me to get through the rest of the con simply because I felt more prepared for it. Yes, the constant droves of people still produced a bit of anxiety, but I took a few minutes to sit down and plan out my con. I circled the panels I wanted to go to, figured out which times I would be in the Exhibit Hall and which times I would be meeting up with Crymson and/or Thia. We planned when we would give ourselves meal breaks and figured out where we wanted to go. We were more prepared than usual, which did wonders for my anxiety levels.

If you ever have the chance to go to one of Aniyah Lyszt’s panels, do it! With boob jokes, cursing and sex talk mixed in with some serious advice, I promise you won’t regret it.

You can check out Pleasant Nightmare Entertainment here.

Zenkaikon 2018: Empathy

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I had the absolute pleasure of attending Zenkaikon 2018 this year. I will gush about all the fun that was had for hours. However, I want to talk about a very specific moment.

As press, I go there to work. I love going to conventions, but I love them more when I’m working them. I love watching other people have fun, asking guests questions and talking to people. It fills me with absolute delight.

So, as I prepared to interview one of the many amazing guests at Zenkaikon, the unthinkable happened. I was bumped into and our camcorder went flying from my hand. Even the guest attempted to dive for it as it hit the carpet and broke. The flood of emotions that filled me in those seconds is hard to describe. I picked it up and my heart sank, there was nothing I could do, it was broken and the whole weekend of interviews was flying out of my hands.

A couple of things happened all at once. As I breathed through the desire to cry and seeming apathy of the person who bumped me, I heard a couple of voices.

__yhqNo5_400x400Mae & Kyle of Fandom Spotlight jumped up and offered to record it using their camera.

I could have cried. I used their mic (a mic I was NOT used to using, so here is hoping all went well) because it had their name on it and I wanted everyone to know who these amazing people are. They even offered to sync it up and send it to me.

We couldn’t ask to make better friends at a convention. I honestly didn’t expect so much help, but they offered more, even taking the time to give us tips on things we can do differently, things we can do better as beginners. Kyle said that something similar happened to him at another convention: he dropped his camera and it broke. Another press stepped up and helped him out. A little bit of pay-it-forward but mostly, “Hey I’ve been there and it sucks.”

I’m sure you are wondering about the camcorder. Anthony, a member of the Zenkaikon staff in the press department asked to look at the camcorder while we were interviewing. I had already asked if they wouldn’t mind being amazing and allowing us to use their equipment for the rest of the day since we were in all the same interviews; however, during my interview Anthony was able to fix the camcorder. In about 10 minutes, he put everything back together.

We did lose some footage and we are attributing it to the camcorder dropping but Kyle, Mae and Anthony are our superheroes, MVPs, angels for the day. Not only did they save my sanity and our interviews but they also rolled out with that empathy, that desire to help so quickly. I was stunned. I was stunned and my heart was full.

Thank you friends for being so amazing and helping us in our time of need.

Zenkaikon 2018: FOOD

If there’s one thing I’m pretty sure I know well, it’s food. The weekend of Zenkaikon 2018, I was able to try several restaurants in the Lancaster, PA area. From Asian restaurants to cafes to Irish Pubs, we ate very well during Zenkaikon 2018. Here are my thoughts on the food:

1. Issei Noodles

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Miso Ramen from Issei Noodles

Crymson mentioned that there was a ramen place nearby that she didn’t have a chance to try the previous year. Of course that was the first place I wanted to go. We got to the restaurant and had a bit of a wait, though not as long as the ETA they told us when we checked in. Our hostess and our waitress were both absolutely lovely. They explained anything we didn’t understand and were attentive to our needs as patrons. A+ Customer Service.

The food was great! We started off with some fried gyoza, which are basically pork dumplings. They were crispy and well seasoned, though I think they could have used a bit more meat. Next came our ramen. Crymson and I both got the miso ramen, which included miso, pork, fish cakes and leeks in addition to the noodles in a soy/pork broth. The soup was flavorful and not at all like the instant ramen we get at the grocery store. We ended our meal with some matcha and turon. Even though my stomach was threatening to explode at this point (after eating all of my soup and some of Crymson’s), I devoured the semi-sweet desserts we ordered.

I highly recommend Issei Noodles if you’re ever in the Lancaster, PA area.

2. The Rabbit and the Dragonfly

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Cute book corner!

I have never seen a cuter cafe in my entire life. We found ourselves here twice, once for a coffee to keep us awake so we wouldn’t miss Cosplay Burlesque and again the next morning for brunch. While I wasn’t that much of a fan of the chai tea latte or the iced coffee I got, their food was a different story entirely.

I ordered fish and chips, a British classic, and some chili cheese fries, which are a personal favorite dish of mine. The battered and fried cod was mildly flavored and cripsy, just like it should be. The fries were nice and crispy as well, which always make for good fries. They’ve definitely got themselves a quality fryer.

The chili cheese fries were also amazing. The cheese was mild and the chili was chunky, but not spicy. The fries held up nicely under their dressings. The flavors mixed together perfectly. A+ food.

It’s also important to note that the cafe is themed like a bookshop. They pull their inspiration from JRR Tolkein and CS Lewis, two talented authors who created two of the most well-known fantasy worlds out there. The ambiance was calming and warmed my little book-worm heart.

3. Annie Bailey’s Irish Pub

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Irish nachos

Food-wise, Annie Bailey’s was my favorite. Naturally, the Irish pub had Irish inspired food. They had Shephard’s Pie, Bangers & Mash, and even Irish Potato Nachos. The pub had the lighthearted feel that you would expect of an Irish bar and restaurant.

I ordered fried pickles for an appetizer. While I’m used to pickle chips, I was given pickle spears, which was an experience. The consistency was different than what I’m used to, but I didn’t complain as I gobbled them up. They had a bit of a bite to them, which I enjoyed immensely.

My main dish was the Irish Potato Nachos. They took waffle fries (my favorite) and topped them with three different cheeses, tomatos, scallions and a dusting of brisket. This was way more than I could eat in one sitting, but they gave me sour cream AND ranch, so I tried the best I could.

I had a bite of Crymson’s Bangers & Mash and just WOW. The sausage was perfectly cooked and the mashed potatoes were so creamy. I can’t even describe the gravy they used as anything but delectable.

Finally, I had a bite of their dessert Dark Side of the Moon. It was bascially chocolate, topped with chocolate topped with chocolate with some whipped cream. It was the best thing I’d ever tasted. The chocolate cake was cooked with coffee liquer, making it melt on your tongue. Chocolate mousse was the cake filling, making it light and fluffy. Finally, the frosting had chocolate chips in them, giving it a bit of a crunch.

If you ever have a chance to go to Annie Bailey’s Irish Pub in Lancaster, PA, then make sure you get there. You won’t regret it in the slightest.

All of the restaurants we went to had quality food. While these were the three big ones we went to during our days in Lancaster, there were tons of others that we didn’t get a chance to try. If you have any other Zenkaikon food suggestions, let us know in the comments below!

Zenkaikon 2018: An Overview

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My mind is still a buzz from our weekend at Zenkaikon, a convention I will never get tired of talking about, that I absolutely adore, and that I look forward to every year.

This is only my second year at Zenkaikon and it did not disappoint.

I want to point out something extremely important: whilst the panels, guests, vendors, anime, games, etc are all of the utmost importance for a convention, there are two things I look forward to the most:

  1. The Staff
  2. Lancaster, PA

Of all the conventions I have been to, the staff here has never been rude to me or anyone else that I’ve seen. I also walk through those doors with an understanding that these people are not getting paid, they are volunteering. They are doing this for the love of it, for the fun, for the Zenkaikon community. They are trying to tame a convention of people. Every different type of person under the sun and, honestly, I think it would be easier to tame a rave of drunk squirrels then to keep a convention under control.

IMG_2845I also don’t mistake urgency for rudeness. I’ve seen them get loud. I’ve seen hurry people. I’ve seen them say ‘no’ more times than I can count. I’ve never seen them get angry. They have to be loud so you can actually hear them over the general convention noise. They have to hurry you along because you are one of over 5,000 people they have to make sure is safe. I love the Zenkaikon staff.

Lancaster, PA, is also AMAZING. Having grown up in the area, I knew Lancaster for two things: the Amish and the farms. I had no idea there was an actual downtown area until we drove into it last year. Now, thanks to an amazing Zenkaikon guide (MrEvilena1), not only was I able to figure out the convention and have so many questions answered, but he also pointed out delicious food. Granted, this year was a bit crazy, but the food never disappoints. It just get’s better and Vanri is so excited to tell you all about it.

On top of all of that,  I got to meet The Triforce Quartet, Sarah Wiedenheft, Jessica Calvello, Quinton Flynn, Jad SaxtonJonathan Maberry, Corgi Cosplay and the always wonderful Cosplay Burlesque. Of course, every year I am terrified of the guests and every year I realize that they are just a bunch of people. They’re mostly just nerds who love talking to people and being at cons. That makes my heart soar.

If you’ve never been to Zenkaikon, I urge you to go. You don’t know what you’re missing!

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Top 10 Things that happened to me at Zenkaikon 2017

Crymson went to Zenkaikon 2017! Here are some of the things she experienced:

 

 

10) Some utterly amazing cosplays where everywhere!

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9) I was sandwiched between two doctors in my T.A.R.D.I.S dress

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I found Wednesday Adams

8) So many people told me they love my hair!

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Waiting for Cosplay Masquerade

7) I made new friends!

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Our friends at CommonGeek.tv

7) I want hours to talk to Keith DeCandido

5) The Slants concert was AMAZING

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The Slants

4) I got a ‘NOTICE ME SENPAI!’ from a stranger

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Senpai Loves You

3) MY FIRST BURLESQUE SHOW! Not only did I see my first show

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Pre Show (Photography was not allowed)

2) I got to spend some time with Uncle Yo! Much more than an interview, I was able to see him several times, chat with him and give him a few hugs. He made me laugh, he made me cry.

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Crazy Uncle Yo

1) Ellen McClain and John Patrick Lowery Believe in me! Meeting them was definitely the highlight of the convention for me. They are two incredible people that I’d love to sit with for hours and listen to their stories. I cannot say enough positive things and hope to speak with them again.

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John Patrick Lowery & Ellen McClain are too precious for this world

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Noodle King

 

 

 

(Honorable Mention: ALL THE FOOD!)
If you live in the Lancaster Area, please eat at The Rabbit and The Dragonfly & Noodle King