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A FANGIRL Experience: Finding Community at BookCon 2019

When I arrived at BookCon 2019, I was filled with an anticipatory yet unsettling excitement. Sure, I had been to a handful of conventions before of various kinds: pets, pop culture, comics etc.


But, this time was different.


Instead of seeing a list of celebrities, panels and giveaways that I hadn't heard of prior, I had bookmarked more events than I had time to experience. This was my first time experiencing a convention that focused on a genuine passion of mine. However, it was also my first convention I had attended alone.

Conventions of any kind are overwhelming, regardless of how many you had been to. From the morning buzz outside the convention center to the flood of people crashing through the open doors to the crowds of fans bouncing though the aisles. In short, it’s madness.


But, there’s another element that comes into play when the convention centers on your interests. Thrill. A word not often associated with gathering devoted to discussing reading and writing, it would turn out to be the missing element to the previous conventions I had attended.


Fans were filled with a thrill that fueled them through the hours on the exhibition floor. Hour long panels flew by. Waiting in line for 45 minutes for a 5 second giveaway felt like a treat. It was exhilarating.


What surprised me the most about BookCon was how quickly community formed. Walking through the doors on the first day, I headed straight for the first panel – eager to hear my favorite author talk about her upcoming releases and (hopefully) dole out the rare piece of advice to budding creatives.


I planned ahead, snagging one of the closest seats to the panel before hers, knowing that I could keep the seat for her packed panel afterward. I sat in silence, listening to new authors I hadn’t heard of talk about their projects. In the process, I found myself adding books to my TBR and logging authors in my Goodreads account.

When the panel ended, the crowd rose and funneled outside. Around me, a handful of people sat patiently for the next panel, as I had. A girl next to me tapped another girl on the shoulder.


“I love your earrings! Where did you get them?”

“Etsy!”


I, stuck awkwardly in the middle, glanced over and accidentally inserted myself in the conversation. To my surprise, her earrings were mini versions of my favorite book, FANGIRL. As I went to pull out my copy, she pulled out hers. We laughed and dove into a lengthy conversation about our favorite characters, scenes and her other books. In front of us, another girl turned around and flashed her copy of the book. Complete strangers from different states and different stages of life, yet we bonded over a shared love of one book.


Which transitioned into two books.


Then three.


By the time the panel began, we all hung on every word. The girl with the earrings got in line to ask a question to the author. Our row sat proudly and echoed excitement for her. When the panel ended, much too quickly for our liking, we all said our goodbyes and headed off to the next panel, meet and greet or giveaway on our list.

The panel transformed the rest of my BookCon experience. Not only because I got to see my favorite author in person, but because the sea of people I had initially feared, instantly filtered down to a group of book nerds just like me.

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