Magazine Trade Fair Success!


Anthony Carvalho and I manning Sprout's booth at the Magazine Trade Fair!

I can't believe it's almost April and my first-year of CreComm will be coming to an end in just a couple of weeks.

On Thursday, we wrapped up our major first-year project at the Creative Communications Magazine Trade Fair. My group and I launched Sprout, a magazine about environmentalism and sustainable living that we have been working on since we returned to college in January.

Overall, the response to our magazine and booth at the trade fair was overwhelmingly positive. A number of people said that if they saw Sprout on the rack at a bookstore, it would stand out from all the other magazines and that they would buy it. This is one of the best compliments we could receive as the whole point of the project was to create a real magazine that our target audience would find compelling enough to actually spend money on it. 

With magazines and other print publications struggling to survive and capture reader attention, it was extremely important that our marketing and PR tactics were focused and strategic in order to convince people to give Sprout a chance. I think we did very well putting together a booth at the trade fair that was exciting and interesting for people. Our booth was made out of wood and mats made out of recycled tires. We had a monitor displaying a slideshow of our magazine and a page thanking our sponsors, a draw for two Winnipeg Jets tickets donated by our sponsor Recycle Everywhere and several giveaways including Recycle Everywhere merchandise like pens and magnets, and all-natural vegan soap donated by our sponsor Di e Erbe.

I would like to congratulate all the magazine groups for all their hard work, and give a special congratulations to the groups that won awards for best content, best layout, and best overall.

Congratulations to Deepend magazine for winning best content. Your magazine showcased a whole other side to skateboarding and the article about the blind skateboarder was truly inspiring.

Congratulations to Neat magazine for winning best layout. I am really impressed with how modern and clean your magazine looked. Well done.

And last but not least, congratulations to The Hack magazine for winning best overall. This group did a fantastic job on content, layout, photography, and marketing. One of my best friends was also in this magazine group and I know how hard she worked on this project. Congratulations to you all!

Independent Professional Project (IPP) - Making Mental Health Fun


In the Creative Communications program we complete an Independent Professional Project (IPP) in second-year in order to graduate. This project can be almost anything, as long as the instructors can see the student has given the project some thought and that the project will use some of the skills we have learned in the program.

For my IPP, I have chosen to put on a mental health and wellness conference for post-secondary students. Now, this isn't going to be some boring, stuffy conference full of stiff presentations. It's going to be different, because it's going to be fun.

When people think about mental health, I think the words counselling, illness, issues, weakness etc. often come to mind, and these words have negative connotations behind them. My goal is to try and help change the way students think about mental health and reduce the stigma that surrounds the topic of mental health.

The way I am going to do this is through fun, interactive workshops and presentations that explore personal wellness and mental health. For example, I plan to have a mental health professional administer the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator personality inventory and educate students about the healthy coping mechanisms that may work well for them according to their personality type. I also plan to include stress-relieving workshops like expressive art, yoga, Pilates, Zumba, and meditation. Inspiring keynote speakers who have struggled with a mental illness in the past, or who are living with a mental illness will also share their experiences, offer advice, and probably tell a few jokes.

Now here's the part I'm not sure about. I don't know if students will care, let alone come to this event.

If you are a student, recent graduate, young person, or just someone who thinks you might have some advice for me, I want your feedback! Please help me answer the following questions — and please don't be shy!

Would you be interested in attending this conference?

Would you pay a small fee to attend this conference ($5 - $10)?

What could I do to increase the chances that you would attend this conference?

What are some of the topics you would like to see covered at the conference?

Would you drop in for a free yoga, Pilates, Zumba, or meditation class during a spare at school?

What kind of food would entice you to attend this conference?

I thank you in advance for your comments. This is the first event outside of a potluck I have ever planned, and I need all the help I can get!

Magazine Project


Over the last 3 months, I have been working with 3 of my classmates to write, design, and publish a 24-page magazine about environment and sustainable living in Manitoba. The last two weeks in particular, have been full of late nights as we try to wrap up our work, get ready to send our magazine off to be printed, and plan our magazine launch, which will occur on March 28 at Red River College (you're all invited!).

Even though I have been spending all my waking hours at school and am in dire need of a good night's rest, I am really pleased with how our magazine is turning out and can't wait to get a copy in my hands. This assignment has been the most challenging, interesting, and hands-on assignment I have ever completed. I met so many interesting people while conducting research and interviews for the magazine, and I've learned so much about photography through the trial and error of capturing great photos.

When I entered CreComm, I had little knowledge of editing software programs such as InDesign and Photoshop. As I compare my work from first term with my design work in our magazine, I can really see how my design skills have come a long way. In fact, I am really enjoying using InDesign and Photoshop, and am looking forward to learning more about the programs.

I apologize for the short blog post this week — next week will be much better, promise!

Happy weekend everyone.

A Thousand Farewells


I first learned about Nahlah Ayed's book, A Thousand Farewells from my mom. My mom is a type of social worker who helps people from Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, and many other countries, settle into their new life in Canada. Through her work she has met incredibly strong and resilient people, who have survived devastating wars and conflicts that many people, including myself, only read or hear about in the news. When my mom told me about Ayed’s book, she described it as a fascinating account of one of the most politically charged areas of the world. I knew I could probably take her word for it that it was a book worth reading, and so I was really excited when I learned we would be reading A Thousand Farewells in our journalism class.

Ayed’s style of writing is something that I think works really well in this book. Within the first few pages, Ayed's poignant writing drew me in. From descriptions of her childhood home in Winnipeg to that of Al-Wihdat, the cramped and dirty camp Ayed’s parents uprooted them to, Ayed’s writing details, dictates, and informs readers. I for one appreciate her journalistic style of writing during parts of the book that deal with war and conflict that are ridden with layers of complex history and politics. For example, when Ayed describes various wars in the Middle East, she provides the who, what, when, where, why, and how of each situation, to the best of her ability.

Ayed's dedication to providing readers with the facts and historical and political background of each region she visits, is an aspect of the book that I think works well. Although some people have described the book as too dense, I think Ayed expertly navigates around layers of history, culture, and conflict, to ultimately tell a moving story about people and humanity. I admit there were some parts of the book I had to read a couple of times to make sure I had the story straight, but I don’t think this is a negative aspect of the book. Wars, governments, and politics are complicated topics with complicated histories, and the road to understanding how they affect people is not straightforward. I think Ayed used as simple language as accurately possible, and provided a true account of what it’s like to live in the Middle East.

What doesn’t work well in this book is that there are many, many confusing names. In some cases, I think Ayed could have provided more complete physical descriptions of characters in order to help readers remember who is who throughout the book. More than once, Ayed introduced a minor character early on in a chapter, only to move on from that character, and then return to them after several pages, or even an entire chapter. Sometimes when she did this, I had no idea who she was referring to and it brought me out of the story as I had to flip back to remind myself of who the character was.

There are a couple things missing from the book that I think readers would find useful. Firstly, the book could benefit from visuals such as a map of the Middle East, and photographs of some of the places Ayed travels to. Secondly, while Ayed describes her childhood in Winnipeg, her family’s move to Al-Wihdat, and then back to Winnipeg again, she doesn’t offer up much about her personal life throughout the rest of the book. I would like to know more about her personal life as an adult. Did she have a romantic life at all? What did she do for fun while living in the Middle East? What about her friends back home? Lastly, I was often left wondering about the logistics of being a journalist in the Middle East. I am curious as to how Ayed managed to gain access into some of the more dangerous areas. Was it the CBC that arranged it? Some people may find these kind of details boring, but I am interested to know how she managed to navigate within such unstable regions.

I think what journalists can learn from this book is that regardless of what they are writing about, whether the story is about a war, plane crash, storm, election, or some other issue, the story is always about people. The people Ayed meets, interviews, quotes, and befriends in A Thousand Farewells are really what make the book come alive. I also think journalists can learn to play on their strengths the way Ayed does. She uses her language skills, culture, and network of connections to get to the root of the story. Lastly, I think journalists can learn that there are multiple sides to every story and that trying to represent as many sides of the story as possible as Ayed did in this book, will lend credibility to their work.

As I was reading this book, it reminded me of another non-fiction book I read recently called Arrival City by Doug Saunders. Like Ayed, Saunders is a journalist interested in how people in the developing world are affected by social, political, and historical issues, as well as conflict that results from these issues. His book, Arrival City provides a fascinating look into the lives of people living in slums around the world. Like A Thousand Farewells, Arrival City contains stories of people living in poverty, who are frustrated with government, and struggling to survive day-to-day. But also like A Thousand Farewells, Arrival City is full of stories about people who are resilient, hopeful, and determined to change the future. 

This book affected me in a number of ways. Reading about the realities of war and poverty in the Middle East reminded me of why I am so thankful to live in Canada. The fact that I can live in a house and go to school and work without having to worry about my safety in any major way, is something I am very thankful for.

This book was also a wake-up call for me as it made me realize how little I know about conflicts in the world that continue to kill and displace people. So many of the people I interact with on a daily basis, at school, the grocery store, and even people I pass walking down the street, have immigrated or come to Canada as refugees. I know so little about what these people have been through and the reasons behind political instability in countries around the world. This summer I plan to pick up another non-fiction book like Ayed's in order to try and learn more about world current events.

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