The Drawing Board is back! Well, to be honest, we never really left but we did take a year-long break from blogging, vlogging and social media for many good reasons.

What have we been up to?

We have been busy working! Throughout the year,  we have continued to serve clients, letting some old friends go and making some new ones! We have also continued to serve our communities through our advocacy and educational work.

We have been busy convocating! The owner and editor-in-chief of The Drawing Board, Nakita Valerio, finished her Masters degree in history at the University of Alberta last year so believe it or not, we were busy thesising, defending and graduating!

We have been busy researching! In addition to regular work for The Drawing Board, Nakita also undertook a research fellowship on anti-Semitism and anti-Muslim racism in Canada with the Tessellate Institute! Keep your eyes peeled for the resulting publications which should be out any day now!

We have been busy learning the Truth! While we have been off, two of our staff writers took the time to read all six volumes of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission Reports. We encourage everyone to do the same.

We have been busy birthing! In addition to keeping new clients happy and getting her parchment, Nakita also went through an incredible (and difficult) 9 months of pregnancy which ended in a spectacular birth. We welcome Baby Sujood to The Drawing Board family!

We have been busy recruiting! In addition to our fabulous team members and contributors of old, Elisabeth and Erin, we have also added another fabulous femme to The Drawing Board team, just in time for our brand relaunch! We will give Olga a proper welcome shortly!

We have been busy learning how to center accessibility! We have spent some time learning about how to make our vlogs more accessible with simple tools like transcriptions and Closed Captioning. We hope to apply what we have learned to everything we are doing!

We have been preparing to relaunch! We have been hard at work reconfiguring our website to better reflect the work that we do for you!


The Drawing Board is delighted to relaunch our website and our social media after much anticipation!

The new site clearly outlines the philosophy behind our company and the two streams of services we now offer: corporate/non-profit and academics/writers. Our main goal with our redevelopment was to offer as sleek and as simple a design as possible to reflect the professionalism of our company, center accessibility and to let our services speak for themselves in the manner we know best: through good, clean writing.

In addition to rebuilding the design and layout of our website, we are also committed to reinvigorating our blog, Youtube channel, Facebook feed and have finally joined the Instagram revolution. Be sure to follow us on all platforms and subscribe to our Youtube to keep up with us!

Mona Ismaeil is the think-tank behind a brand new podcast to hit the airwaves called The Modern Hijabi. Recently, she joined The Drawing Board’s owner and editor-in-chief, Nakita Valerio, to discuss this exciting new adventure and her plans for Muslimah activism and community-building in the future.

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Fast Facts:

Favourite Qur’anic Verse at the moment: A verse that governs my life and how I view life’s challenges and obstacles is: “Allah does not burden a soul beyond that it can bear” (Al Baqarah, 286). I’ve been through a number of obstacles from health related issues and doctors telling me I was infertile to having a spouse who’s work takes him away from our family for long periods of time.  I try to remind myself that this is all Allah’s plan for me and that I can handle it because he will never give me more than I can handle.

Woman from Islamic history you are “feeling” right now: I absolutely adore Khadija bint Khuwaylid (May Allah be pleased with her). She was the “Mother of the believers”. I admire that she was strong, confident, successful and devoted to her work, her community and most importantly her husband. She was the ideal Muslimah and an amazing example for all Muslimahs.

Women who professionally inspire you: I love to draw inspiration from my friends and sisters who I know very well. I feel that it is important to choose people to look up to and make our role models that are “real people”! I am not inspired by celebrities or generally high profile people because I feel that sometimes we end up chasing a dream or a life that is out of reach. When we look up to or draw inspiration from sisters around us we can help ourselves to have more realistic goals and judgments on our successes and accomplishments. So with that said, I have two friends and sisters in Islam whom inspire me professionally and they would be Nakita Valerio; Owner of The Drawing Board and Wedad Amiri; Owner of Afflatus Hijab.  They both are doing what they love, and not holding back. They are both taking their lives and careers by the horns and I respect that. Also, both sisters are taking what they love and finding a way to give back to the community and to be active in a humanitarian way. Furthermore, both sisters are striving to make the world better for women which excites me.  Each sister has her own direction, method and niche but in the end, the goal is the same.

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Can you tell us about yourself and your role with the podcast? What are you trying to accomplish by creating space for the modern hijabi’s voice?

I suppose it is important to tell you about Modern Hejab first as that is where The Modern Hijabi stemmed from. My husband and I opened Modern Hejab in 2010. My goal was not to sell millions of hijabs but it was more to make a connection with young Muslim girls. I just used Modern Hejab as a platform, a way in. I started to wear hijab at 23years old. I struggled with the decision for a long time and it really came from the fact that I could not find enough good role models to get me excited about wearing hijab.  The women I saw around me were too meek, reserved, frumpy, and just not who I wanted to be. At 23 I was somewhat vein and the idea of covering my big curly hair was just out of the question. And for what? Was it even worth it? I craved that connection with God and after some soul searching I realized, hijab would fill this hole in my spiritual heart. From the day I wore the hijab, I fell in love with it and everything about it. The way it looked and felt and everything, just made me sure I had made the right decision. I often wish I had worn it sooner but only Allah knows when the right time is.

From there I decided that I needed to help other young women struggling with that decision. I wanted to show to Muslims and Non- Muslims that hijab is beautiful and that there is a way to make if fun, fashionable and still true to the Deen.

Now, The Modern Hijabi. I am a teacher by profession and once a teacher, always a teacher. I wanted to use the Modern Hijabi to start conversations with Muslim sisters and even Non-Muslims about women and hijab. I wanted to use it as a platform for showing the beauty of Islam. I want to break down barriers and diminish stereotypes about Women and Islam. Even Muslim women have misconceptions about Islam believe it or not!  I want to create a space where sisters can come to learn about Hijab, Islam, Tips and Tricks for being a hijabi and general girl talk.

What do you mean by “modern” and “Hijabi”?

Hijabi is a term used to describe a women who dons the hijab (Islamic head covering). Now the “Modern” aspect of it is about taking a traditional practice and bringing it into the modern world. This can be difficult sometimes but it is about balance. It’s about following the latest trends while still remaining modest. It’s about being outgoing and enjoying life while still remembering the values and guidelines that we live by.

What are some of the subjects covered in your podcast series thus far?

My first podcast was about the Burkini Ban. Although it had already been overturned, I wanted to share my thoughts on the idea as that whole issue just blew my mind.

Next, I started a series called the “Journey to Hijab”. This series will cover 8 steps to starting to wear hijab. I had little guidance when I started wearing hijab as I think many sisters go through the same thing. I mean what is there to guide? Just put it on, and presto an instant hijabi! No! There is a process as it is a life changing choice and if rushed into, can have negative consequences. I know I am making it seem like a big thing but really when you take that step on your “journey”, you are changing your life forever. Through this series I want to help make the journey more meaningful, seamless and more enjoyable.

Can you give us a sneak peek into some future topics you will be exploring?

I will be sharing all things hijab. For example, styling tips, storage tips, my story of when I started wearing hijab and so much more hijab related topics. Also, I want to extend my podcasts to speak about different issues with women in Islam. I want to address stereotypes and misconceptions. Finally, I am a mom and the world of mothers is never boring! I will also be talking about parenting Muslim children and teaching our children about different Islamic topics including how to be proud of who they are as Muslims.

What are some of the most rewarding aspects of podcasting?

Well, I am new to the podcasting world but so far it is being able to put out information to help others. I love that we can reach so many people so easily.

What are some of the most challenging aspects of podcasting?

Getting people to listen. I’m still learning how to convince people I have something important to say.

What led you to adopting this technological medium to get your voice out there?

As much as I love blogging, I felt that podcasting and speaking to people unedited felt more raw and authentic. I want to have a conversation. When I blog, I can edit and re-edit what I want to say, while with podcasting it is more natural. It’s like we’re sitting down to have a cup of coffee or for me a latte together.

How do you plan what you are going to do shows about?

I really look at what moves me and I try to go from there. Honestly, I do not plan that much. I think about the different points I wish to cover but I don’t write anything down. I don’t read from cue cards or notes. Like I said, I want it to be raw and authentic and natural.

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What do you like to do in your personal time?

As a stay-at-home mom, I spend the majority of my time with my two children; Manessa (3.5 years) and Malik (8 months). I love to take them out to parks, playgrounds, anywhere I can help them learn about the world. I also enjoy surrounding myself with strong and like-minded women who can fuel the different parts of my life. My husband and I love being fit and active so I go to the gym often and really work towards a healthy lifestyle. My family always has the travel bug and we’ve been blessed to see many places in the world. I love writing, blogging and speaking to people about Islam. I also love to learn about other cultures and religions. Finally I love spending time with my family and friends. They bring me so much joy and just make life worth living.

What is something not a lot of people know about you?

I trained as an amateur boxer for 5 years. I trained at Panther Gym (the greatest gym in Edmonton). I turned to boxing to help me through some tough times. The sport itself as well as the family I gained from being at Panther gym really made the obstacles I was facing much easier. Boxing gave me and outlet for my anger and frustration and the people there gave me so much love.  Although I no longer box, Panther Gym will always have a special place in my heart.

If your podcast had one take-home message for listeners, what would it be?

I think the specific messages will change with each segment depending on the topic but the general idea is that Women in Islam are more than what people think we are. We are more than we think we are. I want to show that Islam is a faith of love, respect, acceptance, peace and so much more.

To sign up for The Modern Hijabi, click here.

Not all content is created equally and nowhere is this truer than with click-bait. Click-bait is sensationalist writing, particularly headlines and imagery, that is designed to attract a netizen’s attention and especially to draw visitors to a web page – ie. click the link. Upon clicking it, the result is usually an article of low calibre or a series of 25 pictures of celebrities before their deaths where you have to click “next” after every single picture. There is one reason for this deluge of online refuse and one reason only: advertising dollars. Websites that produce click-bait exist to get traffic to their pages so advertisers will pay for airtime on their site. If click-bait can attract thousands and thousands of doting followers who will dutifully click ahead through every story, there are advertisers waiting in the wings, willing to pay to passively influence those followers.

With click-bait, the writing offered is usually garbage and the reason for this is simple: people more likely to click the link often fail to read articles all the way through and lack internet attention spans adequate to cover well-argued and well-written long reads. But does that really matter? Isn’t all content good content?

No.

In fact, bad content is far more detrimental to your organization or business than no content can be. How could this possibly be the case, right? Isn’t any content better than nothing so potential clients or patrons can find you through adequate SEO? Shouldn’t making advertising dollars off your website be a good secondary business plan? Can’t SEO strategies not even begin to be used without some base online content? So what if that content happens to be cheap, sleazy click-bait?

The reality is that the quality of content you are putting on your website reflects a lot to potential clients about your level of professionalism and your standards. If you are offering genuine quality services to people, click-bait content and headlines just cheapens your overall image. And generally speaking, unless your only goal is to make money through advertising (rather than actually selling your products and services), click-bait almost never results in potential clients investing their hard-earned dollars in your business.

In fact, click-bait is not only a poor business practice, it has become a cultural meme of online annoyance. The mosquitos of the internet, click-bait articles are appearing in everyone’s newsfeeds these days and they are as distracting as they are detrimental to the literacy levels of the internet on the whole.

As reported by Big Think, a study published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology recently demonstrated how most people do not tend to read online news articles the whole way through and, even worse, how – in the event that you do make it through an entire article – a deceptive click-bait headline dramatically impacts the lessons you take away from article itself: this usually means coming away with a polarized or just plain incorrect opinion on a subject, despite the content evidence in the body of the article pointing to something more nuanced.

“All too often especially when it comes to science news, we see headlines that are directly contradicted later on in an article…”

In the study, researchers presented identical articles with different headlines, ultimately determining that headlines (particularly sensationalist ones which did not stay entirely true to the article) dramatically impacted the readers thoughts about the contents of the articles. Ultimately, readers’ opinions were swayed by the content of the headline alone. And the Big Think article says it all at the end:

“The findings suggest writers and editors need to take seriously their responsibility not only in citing reliable and credible sources, but also in choosing a headline that accurately represents the truth – rather than a headline that will get the most clicks. Similarly, readers need to be aware that headlines have an impact on how they perceive articles they read; in an age where profits are determined by clicks, accurately portraying the truth may not be at the forefront of an editor’s mind when deciding how to phrase a headline.”

When it comes to content development as business owners or members of professional organizations, we have a responsibility to raise internet literacy, be pioneers of education in our field and to report responsibly. In the end, quality content reflects the values of your organization far better than sensationalism does and speaks more effectively to those who are much more likely to become real business patrons.

It might not seem like the most important thing in a CEO’s daily purview of company operations but writing has a surprisingly important place in building an organization’s legitimacy, marketing prowess, teaching capabilities, and legacy and online presence. Time and time again, we have seen companies spending thousands and thousands of hard-earned dollars on beautiful website designs only to find that they are not hitting the first page of search engines.

Why is this the case? The online reality is that if your site lacks timely, diversified, precise content writing and images, it doesn’t matter how beautiful it is: no one will find you. And that is a recipe for business disaster – not only for those of us who conduct our business online, but for everyone else too.

These days, if a company does not have a solid website with essential content in an organized, intuitive fashion, people either won’t know you exist or, if they do, won’t trust you. A website might not obviously turn into dollars walking through your business’ door but just because you can’t see how something is directly working, doesn’t mean it isn’t.

A website functions like a safety blanket for potential customers who are using search engines to find businesses in their communities. They might look for particular services you offer by googling keywords. If your site lacks the appropriate content, despite the fact that your business is offering those services or products, your competitors will appear in the search results long before you do.

If you are on your content game, and your potential client comes to a beautiful, branded, navigable site, your online legitimacy immediately starts to build a trust relationship with them by communicating your standards for quality and professionalism. It doesn’t matter if you run your business out of a home office or a professional building centre downtown, your website may be the first impression that clients have of your company and the principles on which you run your organization.

Sloppy websites with dated content can hurt you just as much as excellent websites with timely content can help you succeed. And it all starts with developing adequate, targeted content on your site. Content comes in many forms and can include:

  • Blog articles
  • Static Content
  • Advertising
  • Embedded Video
  • Slideshows
  • Images

Trust your content development to someone who is professionally trained to do appropriate research and create high-quality writing for you on a consistent basis. For some of the most basic reasons to hire a professional – such as those from The Drawing Board – check out our top five reasons here.

 

The Drawing Board was started by Nakita Valerio in 2009. Over the years, we have supported many amazing clients and the scope of what we do has changed from writing to full-on marketing support with the offer of eBook publications, newsletter authourship, social media management and much more. We were founded on the principle that talented people should be acting on those talents, whatever their business may be.

Let’s face it: the digital world is here to stay and if all of us are going to be using websites and social media to communicate, shop, share and live then we had better be doing it well. One of the biggest stumbling blocks that is facing companies, non-profits and charities these days is good, quality content on the social media and websites that keeps them informative, relevant and interesting. This is because of a very simple fact of life: Web designers and business owners are not writers.

We are writers. This is what we do. And even though we make it look easy, we are trained professionals in our trade and we make it our mission to uplift you and your business through our writing services.

What do you get when you cross three historians with passion for writing? You get The Drawing Board.

NakitaNakita Valerio
Owner and Head Writer for The Drawing Board

Nakita Valerio is an academic, activist and writer in the community. She is currently pursuing graduate studies in History and Islamic-Jewish Studies at the University of Alberta.  Nakita was named one of the Alberta Council for Global Cooperation’s Top 30 under 30 for 2015, and is the recipient of the 2016 Joseph-Armand Bombardier Canada Graduate Scholarship from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council, as well as the Walter H. Johns Graduate Studies Fellowship. She has also been honoured with the State of Kuwait, the Queen Elizabeth II and the Frank W Peers Awards for Graduate Studies in 2015. She has been recognized by Rotary International with an Award for Excellence in Service to Humanity and has been named one of Edmonton’s “Difference Makers” for 2015 by the Edmonton Journal. Nakita is the co-founder of Bassma Primary School in El Attaouia, Morocco and the Director of Public Policy with the Alberta Muslim Public Affairs Council.

1395963_10152046806551411_1850691895_nRachael Heffernan

Writer and Researcher for The Drawing Board

Rachael Heffernan is currently completing a Master’s Degree in Religious Studies at the University of Alberta. In the course of her academic career, she has received a number of scholarships and awards, including the Harrison Prize in Religion and the Queen Elizabeth II Graduate Scholarship. During her undergraduate degree, Rachael was published twice in The Codex: Bishop University’s Journal of Philosophy, Religion, Classics, and Liberal Arts for her work on Hittite divination and magic and philosophy of religion. Rachael has also had the opportunity to participate in an archaeological dig in Israel, and has spoken at a conference on Secularism at the University of Alberta on the Christian nature of contemporary Western healthcare. Her wide-ranging interests in scholarship are complemented by her eclectic extra-curricular interests: she is a personal safety instructor and lifelong martial artist who has been recognized for her leadership with a Nepean Community Sports Hero Award. She is an enthusiastic reader, writer, and learner of all things, a tireless athlete, and a passionate teacher.

lizLiz Hill

Writer and Researcher for The Drawing Board

Liz came to Edmonton to do a Masters degree in History at the University of Alberta after completing a Bachelor of Arts degree in Art History at the University of Victoria. Her research interests include medieval and early modern social and cultural history, especially issues around medical history and persecution. In the first year of her Masters degree, Liz received the Joseph-Armand Bombardier Canada Graduate Scholarship from the Social Science and Humanities Research Council of Canada, followed by the Walter H. Johns Fellowship, Queen Elizabeth II Graduate Scholarship, and the Field Law Leilani Muir Graduate Research Scholarship.She  presented at the HCGSA Conference at University of Alberta in 2016 and will be writing the entry on Leprosy in World Christianity for the De Gruyter’s Encyclopedia of the Bible and its Reception (forthcoming). She has worked as a Research Assistant at the University of Alberta, and as a contract researcher and writer for the Government of Alberta’s Heritage division. In addition to her work as a writer and researcher, Liz volunteers with the Art Gallery of Alberta and Latitude 53 Contemporary Visual Culture.

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Even though your marketing manager and graphic designers may be talented beyond your wildest dreams, the reality of the current state of the internet is this: without purposeful, brilliant content even the best-advertised and most beautiful websites will die. With 150,000 new websites and 7 million new pages added to the internet daily, how can you ensure that you and your business will be found? To be frank, if your marketing manager is not staying up at night worrying about the content on your website, you should be rethinking their position in your company. This is the Age of Information and those who don’t provide it are bound to be left by the wayside. The internet is a powerful business force that can render a company successful or bring giants to their knees. As with any powerful force, it should be approached responsibly and with great attention to detail. Content is one such place that can make or break an online presence.

content

What is “Online Content”?

Online content usually refers to regular posts added to an online blog that is part of your overall website. It is one of the most cost-effective ways to increase your rank on search engines (particularly with your target audience – people in your geographical location) but is often overlooked in the slough of other things that start-up entrepreneurs get weighed down with. Most start-ups are focusing on a business plan, building a product, mapping strategies, finding investors (if necessary) among a thousand other things. The last thing on their mind at the end of the day is settling down in front of their computer to write a blog article about any aspect of their business. Finding the time is difficult, but even harder is the actual writing. Business owners are rarely writers and since writing is a veritable, professional skill, not just anyone can do it well!

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How can you make your mark?

The first step to building your online content is to hire a writer. In order to justify this, it needs to be recognized that this may very well be one of the best investmensts your company makes. Regular, timely content on a blog diversifies your content so dramatically that eventually, people who are combing the net for your business can find it by virtually any relevant search terms. Search engines no longer operate on optimized key words but rather go through your content after it has been published, incorporating it into their complex search algorithms. If you are a restaurant but you’ve never posted about the Top Five Local Farms Around Calgary or 18 Pictures of Food-Porn From Our Spring Menu, chances are most people are not going to find you. Writers are experienced in what works and what doesn’t – and we are highly trained in writing. It’s just what we do.

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What does this achieve?

An effective blog will drive swarms of people back to your website, generate more buzz about your brand and company, develop a deeper sense of company legitimacy and community-awareness, generate more product sales, create an additional income stream through advertising, and it can become a great customer service tool for your clients to browse for more information. Blogs tend to lend themselves well to developing the “human” side of your company – with informal reflections and information presented in interesting way for netizens to devour. You can write blogs (or have them written by your writer!) in your own voice – this reassures current and prospective clients that there is a real person behind your website (something that marketing managers are often accused of not being!). A blog is also a fantastic content-management system with various archiving mechanisms available to help people find the information that they need in a timely fashion. With a well-written, regularly-updated blog, we have seen clients become the voice of their industry, building a following of thousands of loyal readers and growing exponentially every day.

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What are the Measurable Benefits?

While writers tend to be preoccupied with the value of writing for writing’s sake, business owners are definitely (and rightfully) more concerned with the bottom line. Blogs can fill the social media void by automatically updating all platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIN and Pinterest with timely content. This increases your share-ability and exposure. Blogs also drive people back to your eCommerce website, if you have it. I have personally witnessed the very beginning of a blog turn into a lucrative online sales business which increased profitability because of lower overhead and low maintenance. Advertising sales on your blog can also generate additional income and increase your readership.

Don’t know where to find a writer? Fire us an email at The Drawing Board and we will get back to you with our service packages. In the meantime, read The Top 5 Reasons to Hire a Writer.