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!

Join us in extending heartfelt congratulations to our very own writer and researcher, Liz Hill, on a successful defense of her Master’s thesis today. Liz’s research was on Madness and Leprosy in the medieval period. 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). dear friend, Morgana, and I were filling out the guarantor section on my new passport application when we realized that the expiration of her passport is for the year 2024. It had a futuristic ring to it that you find in sci-fi novels but we realized that it is a mere NINE (and a half) years away – something you won’t want to think about too hard. Immediately, we starting wondering about what we will be doing. How old will we be? Where will we be in the world? What will we have done?

Being overly certain about the future is something foreign to Muslims, but setting goals and having serious niyyah (intentions) is an obligation. It got me thinking about what I want to achieve in the next while (insha Allah!), especially considering how haphazardly I have gone through the last five years and, despite accomplishing an obscene amount in that short amount of time, I think more focus would be to my benefit. I’m thinking about these things and trying to be as realistic as possible given my past experiences and working capacity.

In 2024, I will turn 38 (!) and these are some of the things I hope I will have accomplished by then:

  • Complete my Masters and a PhD, possible Post-Doc depending on a number of variables including where I do the doctorate (pie in the sky that I am currently working towards = Oxford with Dr. Tariq Ramadan)
  • Publish several articles and present at academic conferences
  • Write and publish at least one book (academic)
  • Complete my family’s historical memoir (stuck at 78 pages)
  • First draft novel/creative non-fiction book
  • Attain fluency in French, Arabic, Darija (Moroccan Arabic) and Italian
  • Find a job (likely NOT in North America) in academics
  • Transform The Drawing Board into a publishing house to support up-and-coming writers, particularly in the genre of creative non-fiction and memoir
  • Complete Hajj with my husband
  • Have another kid (maybe haha – undecided on this one)
  • Live in another country again
  • Start a non-profit, NGO or charity organization that I can run my way
  • Have the school in Morocco (finally) in full operation (we are still waiting for upper level authorization!)
  • Very tempted to further my “non-secular” study of Islam at Zaytuna College under the guidance of Sheikh Hamza Yusuf (pie in the sky) OR go to culinary school (a huge secret dream of mine that only my stepdad ever hears about)

That feels like a lot but when I look back to what I have accomplished in the last ten years, it is completely possible with enough determination and will. I have never been one to be preoccupied with buying a house or things like that, though I completely understand why these things would be important to other people, so it doesn’t surprise me that more practical things did not make the list.

Remind me to check this blog post if we still have the internet in 2024 (or will we just have telepathic networks implanted in our brains from birth by then?) to see if I’ve kept on track or if the twists and turns of life lead me elsewhere.

What do you hope to do by 2024?

Alhambra-in-GranadaThe Drawing Board is pleased to announce that our very own, Nakita Valerio, has been selected as a recipient for the 2015 State of Kuwait Graduate Student award in Islamic Studies. After an intense competition among applicants, Nakita was announced as a winner on June 15, 2015. The award comes with significant financial assistance which will be used to fund her ethnographic and archival research in Morocco and Egypt for her thesis.

The tentative title of her thesis is: Remembering Al-Yehud Through the Shoah: Pedagogical Approaches to Teaching the Holocaust and Jewishness Among Contemporary Moroccan Muslims

A summary of her research is what follows:

The Holocnakita036aust is a provocative measure of the Muslim memory of Jews. Though it isconsidered the starting point in Critical Memory studies, there is yet to be much scholarship devoted to its memory in the Islamic world. An intimate history of relatively peaceful coexistence between Moroccan Jews and Muslims has been challenged in a comparatively short time by narratives of nationalism and diaspora, the Israeli occupation of Palestine, their economic-trade policy, the rhetoric regarding normalization of Israel, and educational protocols surrounding the constructed memory of Jews in Morocco.  My working research questions are as follows: How is the Holocaust remembered by self-identified Moroccan Muslims? How is this affected by education, politics and self-prescribed ideas about the “Islamic and Jewish religions”? How does this affect overall remembering of Jews in Morocco? These questions are situated in the context of Memory literature and are used to understand how societies reconcile multi-layered cognitive dissonance.

Very recently, The Eleventh Stack posted an interesting blog about Little Golden Memories – the acts of reading and being read to, particularly in childhood, that left a lasting impression on you. I have to say that as a book nerd, some of my favorite memories of my childhood (if not almost all of them) involve reading or writing in some capacity. I can scarcely remember a time when I wasn’t reading something. From the ingredients on the box of breakfast cereal to the instructions on the shampoo bottle, I’d find time to read every line of text in my house again and again. Often, my mother would find me in the wee hours of the morning, head buried in a book under the covers, flashlight in my mouth.

This kid lacks the coke bottle glasses I needed to wear after I ruined my eyesight.
This kid lacks the coke bottle glasses I needed to wear after I ruined my eyesight.

Oddly, my love of reading came from my fear of dying. I had two grandparents pass away when I was very young, just around the time I was getting into reading and I have very vivid memories of reading voraciously to “fight the clock.” When my mother would come in my room to take away the flashlight so I could get some sleep, I’d wait until she headed back to her room or the living room before yanking open my curtain to squint out a few chapters by the moonlight. Reading, for me, was almost pathological.

50 below
This is how we roll in Canada…

The first book I ever “read” (see: memorized) was Fifty Below Zero by Robert Munsch when I was around five years old. (Actually, I have no idea when it was. It could have been earlier. I started reading very very early). I remember begging my brother to read it to me until I could mouth the words along with him, savouring the sounds coming out of my mouth, knowing that I was doing the next best thing to reading – that my words were lining up with my eyes scanning all those foreign alphabet letters on the page, that every line I got in before the page turn was a victory for my mimicry. One afternoon, my brother and I were in the basement of my grandmother’s house. My mom and her parents were in the second kitchen discussing grown-up things when my brother called them over.

“Nakita wants to read something,” he said.

They had the look of surprise but listened attentively while I cleared my throat, holding up the Munsch classic and proceeded to “read” the entire book cover to cover.When I was done, they clapped and clapped. This was the first positive experience I had with reading and it is one of the only memories of my grandfather that still remains in my mind. In a way, when I return to it, I am reading him again and again, a memorized version of someone once written in life.

I will never forget the sweet taste of victory.
I will never forget the sweet taste of victory.

As I got older, my appetite for reading only increased to disturbing levels. I remember in the fourth grade, my teacher created this classroom challenge called “Around the World” which was designed to encourage us to read. We all cut out and coloured our own Pink Panthers, and labelled him with our names. My teacher had set up little points all around the room and for every book you read, your panther would move a space. If you made it around the room, your panther had gone around the world! Well, this is exciting stuff for a child-freak like me who savours both reading and competition. Naturally, I checked out dozens and dozens of books from the public library and in the month, had lapped the other students in class several times totalling over 80 books. I clearly had an issue.

In the fifth grade, I got accepted into the Advanced Placement class at my new elementary school and we learned about mythology as part of our curriculum. I will never forget our project for the mythology unit which entailed researching the storytelling structures of myths and writing our very own. Mine was called Why We Call the Moon Lunar (wow hahaha) and I even had the cover laminated. I cherished that thing for years.


Too LEGIT to quit
Too LEGIT to quit

Another story my mother just loves to tell everyone, much to my embarrassment (but obviously not too much because it is hilarious and I am now blogging about it), is what I have dubbed The Aardvark Tale. In the summer between Grade Six and the beginning of Grade Seven, I was terrified that I lacked the knowledge to participate in the great academic halls of JUNIOR HIGH SCHOOL. During the first week of summer holidays, the sun was shining, birds were chirping and my mother entered my bedroom to find me holed up at my desk, surrounded by papers and books, writing furiously. She peeked over my shoulder at the essay I was working on and discovered that I was crafting a history of… the aardvark. Turns out, I had started the very beginning of my knowledge journey at the first entry in the encyclopedia which my mother tore out my hands and locked away, pushing me to go play outside with children my age. She also (mercifully) enrolled me in a performing and visual arts school for junior high to diversify my interests and skills… basically so that I’d be something more than a massive nerd.

Instead, I became a painter and a band geek. Much cooler, I know. And even though I had a number of years of pure creative output, it was my experience in my history, english and philosophy classes that really stuck and I enrolled in University in the history program. It was basically my dream: reading and writing all day. Every day. Just because.

886cfe31a187018ceebe1a23bdbdbfc8e3a2f8661b1c7d8b46b141323e3828c8I’m a now pursuing graduate studies in history and the volume that I read and write has only increased. I remember in my first semester back at school after a five year break (in which I read at least 200 texts, if not more – I lost track –  I have a legitimate disorder), one of my classmates commented on my speed reading in front of the class. I felt like that Aardvark expert all over again –  a complete and utter, undeniable nerd, in other words. That first semester saw the following stats: the reading/skimming of 78 books, the watching of 16 films, the reading of at least 47 articles, the giving of 4 presentations, and the writing of 165 pages in 3.5 months… I want to say that is all I did in that time, but (as you know), I am also the owner and head writer for The Drawing Board and so was reading, researching and writing for many clients in that time as well.


In the words of a dear friend of mine: I need to be “quaratined.”

Now that I have a kid of my own, I can’t help but wonder if she will be like me in this respect. I would love the opportunity to share my love of the written world with her, but don’t want to pressure her if is not as “into it” as her mom. That being said, if I catch her writing essays on Antelopes or something, I’d love to help her hone her craft and nerd it up just like me… with a lot more outside playing thrown in the mix too.

What are your favourite reading and writing memories?

A lot of people look at my life as a business owner, part-time instructor, full-time writer, full-time graduate student and full-time mom and ask… How do you do it?

The answer is: not easily. And not without a whole lot of planning, organization and sleep deprivation. Every minute of every day is filled with things to do, read, write, cook or clean. Places to go. Diapers to change. Forts to build. Papers to write. Blogs to email. Invoices to send. Dishes to scrub. You nameit: I do it.

NakitaBassamWedding2014-017A lot of people might ask why I don’t get a nanny or at least a regular housekeeper and the answer is simple: I might be a business owner but it is far from being a career and as a grad student, I’m notoriously broke. I also stubbornly refuse to go into debt, so the polite buffer of loans (where the pressure of debt is far in the future, not here in the emptiness of your bank account now) doesn’t exist for me to tap into. This means that I make breakfast, lunch, dinner, and all baked goods (even bread!) from scratch the vast majority of the time.

Don’t get me wrong. I have some support. My mom comes to watch my child once a week and on those days she helps me clean and organize my house. She also helps us go grocery shopping and will babysit during “crunch time” at school or during busy work periods when multiple clients are banging on my door for overdue writing! (Don’t worry clients, spring and summer are almost here! I’ll be nagging you!)

But if there is anything I have learned from motherhood, it is that for the VAST majority of the time, it’s just you. And that is annoying, unnerving and empowering. Slogging endlessly, regardless of how tired you are or if you’ve had a break from your own life in the last half century is just the way it is. You’ll wonder how you ever had time to send handmade postcards in the mail or experiment with making pho from home. You’ll wonder if there was a time before the to do list in your mind (that never seems to end and is always scanning for updates) took over. You’ll wonder back to a time when you weren’t needed and try to feel what that felt like. You won’t be able to, but you’ll try.

That being said, it’s the best life for me right now though. I’ve made it for myself and even though it isn’t easy (like, at all), I couldn’t imagine it any other way. And imagining it any other way is something you do alone on a quiet busride (the first time you’ve had one alone in 7 months) where you think about how far the airport is, how you could get some money to escape to Mexico and how long it would take for anyone to notice you were gone. It is certainly not something you tell anyone you think about, never mind blog it into reality forever. Besides, the instant you start all that, you immediately think back to the time your mom babysat for 3 whole hours and your husband was out at the movies with your brother.  And when you came home to an empty house, even though you had wide open time to freely read or write or watch the Food Network, you felt empty too so you sat around waiting, absentmindedly skimming your texts for class, counting the minutes it would take for everyone to return, for someone to ask for a snack to eat or a story before bedtime.

I thought I might outline a fairly typical day in a fairly typical week of mine (today, for instance!) so people could see what it is like!


1:30 am – Go to sleep from day before.

6:30 am – Wake up before child. Brush teeth and wash face as silently as possible. Try not to stir child or else the entire morning plan is destroyed and you woke the toddler up. Unrested toddlers are NOT. FUN. PEOPLE. Sit down with books and assignments. Don’t stop reading or writing until child wakes up. Do not prepare breakfast. Do not make coffee. Yet. Anything could wake her up. Don’t risk it.

8:30 am – Child normally wakes up. Change diaper. Throw in bathtub. While she is happily splashing away with toys, you run around making the beds and getting breakfast ready, checking back every few seconds to make sure she is alright. (One bedroom apartment – my saving grace)

8:45 am – Shampoo and scrub child. Whisk child out of tub after putting away bath toys together and singing the “Time to put away” song about 40 times. Diaper? On. Pant and shirt? Another story. Fuss with kicking toddler for 5 minutes before beginning the “I’m counting to 3 game”. Bribe with lies about visits from Nanna.

pinterest-moms-meme8:55am – Child in highchair, eating food, watching Care Bears. Make coffee in TO GO mug. Wolf down breakfast. Something. Anything. Breakfast can include 2 spoons of yoghurt, a banana and a handful of Goldfish crackers. (Normally does). While child is distracted by Rainbow countdowns, steal any last minute reading time, then run around hysterically packing kid’s bag, your school bag and getting the stroller ready.

9:10am – Fight to get child’s boots on. Pretend Nanna is downstairs with a puppy. Boots? On. Restrain the child in the stroller as she screams for her bottle which you forgot to make. Formula? ALL OVER THE KITCHEN. Shake, shake, shake. Slam bottle in mouth. Check pockets: bus pass, keys, phone. MOVE.

9:17am – Race one block to the bus stop shouting WHEE WHEE!!! Like an insane woman as you tear down the sidewalk, laptop bag pounding your thighs, hijab flapping into your face. Try to smile at every person who is staring at you like you are a crazy person. Get on the bus.

9:30 am – Daycare goodbyes. Tears. Tear down the hall, the stairs and out the door back to the busstop. Wait. Catch your breath. Check your phone. Read.

Wait... but I actually finish my readings. There are people who don't do the readings?!
Wait… but I actually finish my readings. There are people who don’t do the readings?!

9:45am – Enter the classroom and make small chat with your scholarly colleagues before class starts. Savour these few minutes of social bliss when you are neither discussing theories of historical genocide, nor singing the Rubber Ducky song. Try to act normal. Don’t talk about your kid. Break into a story about your kid.

10:00am – 1pm – Class. Joy. Happiness. Bliss.

1:01pm – Speed walk to the busstop with a colleague from class, discussing the class and other academic things. Savour, savour, savour. Human contact.

1:15pm – Daycare pick up. Child is not yet napping but is happy to see you. Kisses, hugs. Get your jacket on. Let’s go. Race to the busstop to get back home.

1:30pm – Strap child to your back in old-school sling and read a book while they slowly fall to sleep. Carefully remove them and place on their bed. Run to the kitchen to find some kind of food. Shove it in your mouth. Read, write, read, write. Hurry now, you don’t know how long she is going to sleep for.

3:30pm – Child wakes up. Present her with lunch. Chat/Babble about her day at daycare.

4:00pm – Child playing with her toys. Tidy house, clean dishes from the day. Start making dinner.

4:15pm – Husband gets home. T-minus 15 minutes until an inquiry about when dinner is going to be ready. Move it, girlie.

This is legitmately an accurate picture. Minus the Dog.
This is legitmately an accurate picture. Minus the Dog.

5:00pm – Eat as a family. Shove food in your mouth like it’s the end of days so you can get started on the dishes before child and husband are done eating. Wash dishes. Go throw in a load of laundry down the hall. Husband and child playing together after eating.

5:30 pm – Change over laundry. Sit down to do some freelance writing work for your home business. Get interrupted five billion times for huggies, kissies, makemeabottlies. Stop to make husband’s lunch.

6:30pm – Change over laundry again. Sweep and vacuum entire house. Put away laundry. Wash baby bottles.

7:00pm – Take child out for a walk. Try to run an errand at the same time to save time.

7:30pm – Go get the clothes you forgot in the dryer. Fold them and put them away as child continuously unfolds everything and throws around the room. Settle down to read or do more work while child colours. If not possible, read a book or build a fort or just run laps with her around the room pretending you’re the tickle monster. Tire that punk-angel out.

8:30pm – Child is getting psycho. Starts this high-pitched whine you are sure that only you and dogs can hear. Husband watches the international news without batting an eyelash. Contemplate homicide. Eat some chocolate instead. Start making night time bottle and begin the brush-teeth-wear-jammies routine.

mom_memes-32119:00pm – Strap kid to back in old school sling (again). More reading and swaying and singing. Try to get her into bed once it is clear she has passed out. If you put her down and she raises her head like a possessed demon baby telling you she loves you or wants another kiss: oblige her. Pat her bum as she resists the urge to sleep and asks for her bottle 7000 times, taking 2 sips and handing it back to you. Resist the urge to shred a pillow with your nails and teeth. Try to scoop up your melted heart when she hugs your back and says Good Night, Love you Mama and mercifully passes out.

9:45pm – Tiptoe out of the room into the dining room where you have set up your “desk” because your real desk is covered in papers and books. Converse with husband if he is still awake. Try to crack jokes and appear natural as you make a mental list of things to do. If not awake, pound some water or tea and start reading/writing/facebooking on breaks.847b2eb8b76dae1afb1efc6d28c0e55b

1:30am – Collapse in your bed and let darkness overtake you. Better to fall asleep immediately as child will wake you up at least 3 times in the night before you get up again at 6:30. Pray for a dream that involves a finished thesis, piles of money and trained monkeys who can write for you while you transmit information to them telepathically.