(That's me at the Vampire Diaries panel. Tiny Ian Somerhalder FTW!)
Things I Learned at my First Dragon*Con
1. No matter how big you think it is, it's so much bigger than that. Especially when you have 10 minutes to get from the Hyatt to the Westin for a panel while 500 zombies shamble down the street.
2. You never know who you're going to meet. My friend was trapped in an elevator with Sam from True Blood. I was on panels with Buffy's Amber Benson and one of my fav authors, Kate Cross. When the Writing Track offered to let me sit on the Heroines Among Us panel, I plunked myself right down by... Mercedes Lackey. Geeks are everywhere, and everyone I met was marvelous.
3. The kindness is almost overwhelming. From free Sun Chips and hummus from www.therandomact.org, to free protein bars, to marvelous volunteers, to friendly celebrities, to random strangers who smiled at my costume, my heart grew six sizes with geek love. When that many people are obsessed with that many fandoms, you can feel the joy in the air.
4. Always wear comfortable shoes. I rarely wear flats, but I vastly underestimated how much my very favorite boots would hurt after 12 hours on my feet. Next year, it's wedges all the way.
5. You will never see everything you want to see. Whether the panel of your dreams is already full-- like the Big Damn Heroes panel for Firefly-- or you can't be in two places at once, you're bound to have disappointments. I didn't see half the people I wanted to see. Sometimes, I barely had time to squee and hugattack someone before running off to my next panel. And I never even made it over to the Walk of Fame at the Hilton.
6. If you're on the fence about costuming, wear the damn costume. Dragon*Con is one of the few chances in your adult life to dress up in anything you want and not seem ridiculous. Trust me--whatever you are, there's going to be something weirder, more badly done, or more revealing. There were chicks wearing tutus and band-aids over their taitas. There were people in normal clothes wearing only a steampunk hat. There were people in full-on furry suits. Go crazy. You will be welcomed, and you'll probably make people smile.
7. Do the thing that scares you. You're in the elevator with a star? Say hello. The person next to you in line is wearing a shirt for your favorite show? Share the love. You want to take a picture of someone in a costume or just tell them they look great? DO IT. People are there because they want to be a part of it. You might make someone's day, or you might make a new friend. The only interactions I regret are the ones I didn't have.
8. Take cash into the vendor rooms. I gave myself $50 to spend, cash. Period. I bought two things I really wanted, and I'm really happy about it. (A bottle of Autumn Coolness perfume oil from Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab and a sugar skull belt purse, in case you're wondering. Plus a cup of Starbucks coffee = $50 exactly.)You can always take a card and look the vendor up online later, if you missed out.
9. Take more pictures than you think you should. One of my only regrets is that I didn't take more pictures. Since I was alone for two out of the three days, there was no one to take my picture, so I barely have any photos of myself or the amazing costumes that I saw.
10. Try to keep your hands free. I had so much more fun when I wasn't carrying anything. Belt bags, backpacks, deep pockets. Integrate carry space into your costume, if you must, or drop purchases off in your room.
11. Don't forget to eat. I did. After breakfast on Friday, I ate only a protein bar and half a stale pretzel. If I had had a drink, I would have passed out on the floor.
12. Make reservations this October to get a host hotel room for next year. We were originally at the W Midtown and magically snagged a room at the Hyatt two days before the con. BEST. MOVE. EVER. Being able to sneak up to your room to eat or switch shoes or do email is imperative. Having a home base made everything so much better.
13. Be prepared for wardrobe malfunctions. I had a little pouch with thread, needle, scissors, and safety pins ready. And I almost walked out of the bathroom with the classic saloon-girl-skirt-caught-in-the-fishnets gaff. When in doubt, ask someone if everything is in place before heading back out into the crowd.
14. If you plan to meet someone, set a time and place. I never saw the people with whom I agreed "I'll find you!" I did find the people who said "We'll be in this restaurant in the back right at 9pm." And decide ahead of time, as the phone signal was way spotty.
15. IF YOU'RE A GEEK WITHIN 4 HOURS OF ATLANTA, YOU NEED TO GO. I can't believe this was my first year. I had such an amazing time, and I'm having trouble re-acclimating to life without thousands of my geek brethren joyously squeeing around me. I'll definitely be back year.
And I'l be ready.