Wednesday, June 15, 2022

Author interview Toula Mavridou-Messer / Book review 'Attitude of Gratitude'


Update 04/03/23 this post won a Page Turner Award

I’m delighted to introduce my second non-fiction book to Tweetables. Toula Mavridou-Messer is a diverse author whose work spans fiction and non-fiction. I asked her to introduce herself, first in a tweet-sized sentence (tweet here):

"Toula Mavridou-Messer has one of the most creative minds I have ever come across. In fact, her imagination knows no bounds!" - LA Writers Center

And then I asked her to tell us more:

‘Like everyone else, I am complicated at times and totally predictable at others. My heart is in the right place and I am far more sensitive than you might imagine. I am also strong; filled with the blood of generations of survivors. My creativity is not just in my words or in the way I look at the world (photography) but in how I respond to it. I can see the benefit in almost everything; perhaps not instantly but I do try to live my life with an element of ‘retrospect’ albeit in the present moment. It’s easy to look back and see the why; I try to see the why right now and express gratitude for it.’

So what subjects does she write about?

‘I am fascinated by people and their motivations; both dark and light. Whatever I write tends to have elements of both. My first book was a gothic horror style prequel to Grimm’s Hansel and Gretel. I had always wondered why the witch wanted to eat children. ‘Mortal End’ is the background story about the witch; who she was and why she behaved the way she did. 

I have also written a book of alliteration (again, the mini stories have a ‘dark’ theme running through them, which was quite a feat when every single word starts with the same letter). 

Most recently, my husband and I created our first illustrated children’s book, “Itsa Mouse and the Cake House.’ Itsa Mouse was originally going to be called Liberace Mouse, just to give you a glimpse into his larger than life persona, but we weren’t sure about the legalities of using the name so Itsa Mouse he is!’

I love that! The books, ‘Mortal End’ and ‘Pocketful of Poesies’, were published in 2014, with ‘Itsa Mouse and the Cake House’ being published in 2021. The book we’re discussing, as Toula feels it’s relevant to more people, is ‘Attitude of Gratitude - 30-Day Workbook to Improve Your Life and Outlook.’ It’s the first book in a series Toula is planning about gratitude. I asked her for a tweetable synopsis of the book and she says (press here):

‘The key to having a great life is gratitude. If you want to be happy and motivated, transform your life in just 30 days from now with my bestselling motivational selfhelp book ‘Attitude of Gratitude.’  

So what inspired her to write this book?

‘Our experiences inform everything we do. I have lived an extremely complicated and interesting life, starting with being given up by my mother at just 6 weeks of age. From the age of 5 until I was twenty, I was sexually abused by a family member and was formally diagnosed with severe complex PTSD in my thirties.

Despite the difficulties, I have always instinctively been grateful for everything in my life (good and not so good), which somehow instilled in me a belief that I could do and be anything I wanted to.’

Wow, I wasn’t expecting such an honest and heart-breaking response! But her resilience is amazing and I wondered what she’s achieved so far?

‘I was one of the youngest gossip columnists in the world when I was 15 and then the youngest principal of any PR firm worldwide at the age of 19. I worked on numerous successful British TV shows from GMTV, Blockbusters and Challenge Anneka to then working in Hollywood on the Golden Globe Awards, American Music Awards and the People’s Choice Awards.’

Okay, so now I’m officially gobsmacked! She continues,

‘Following those incredible experiences, I then set up the first UK celebrity gifting company, providing gift lounges and goody bags at the best events in the UK calendar, including the BRIT Awards, British Comedy Awards and Prince’s Trust Awards.

Throughout all of these amazing experiences, I would always end my day saying ‘thank you’ to the Universe. When times were tough (and at times they really were), I noticed that expressing gratitude about it all, correlated with a sense of peace that made my life easier to live and to navigate.

The consultant psychiatrist who diagnosed my c-PTSD said that based on what I had lived through, it was surprising that I was alive and had not turned to drugs or alcohol. I credit gratitude with being the thing that made all of the difference. It made sense for me to share that knowledge and gift with as many people as possible so that everyone who is interested in changing their lives for the better, can activate this free and easy step to happiness.’

This is amazing but it’s quite a leap from chatting to others about it into writing about it, so how did she start?

‘I started out by researching the benefits of gratitude, which are vast and varied. Those many benefits range from positive emotional/mental/attitude changes through equally positive physical/hormonal changes. I explain more about the benefits in the book.

I then thought it would be really helpful to share how others view and express their gratitude, so carried out an anonymous survey. The first half of the book is filled with those responses, which run the gamut from cute and funny, to extremely heartfelt, personal and emotional. What I had believed to be true about gratitude in my own life, was confirmed and affirmed by learning that others were also experiencing the same powerful benefits of gratitude in their lives, too.

The second half of the book is the actual guided workbook*. It sets out clearly simple tasks to do each day for 30 days in a workbook format, so that readers can actually write their answers and monitor their progress directly into the book; effectively keeping a journal. The 30 day aspect is also important because it is the optimum amount of time required to form a habit.

As a bonus, I have also included a month’s worth of cut-out-and-keep affirmations that can be folded and kept in a jar, ready to be picked at random as and when required. Many people have chosen to pick an affirmation as part of their new daily routine and it is working really well for them.

‘Attitude of Gratitude’ has been likened to ‘Chicken Soup for the Soul’ meets your favourite gratitude journal and selfhelp book.’

(*There is a link to download and print the workbook pages for ebook readers.)

Toula has obviously given this book a huge amount of thought but I wondered how confident she felt in writing a self-help book, given that her background isn’t medical?

‘Have you ever heard someone say that everything they had ever experienced had led them to this moment? That’s how I felt about writing ‘Attitude of Gratitude.’ My personal experiences regarding the subject matter, including spending many years studying related selfhelp books and receiving therapy from highly trained psychologists, enabled me to turn the negative experiences I had survived into survival tools.

Having also worked for many years as a journalist and television researcher enabled me to understand the serious scientific data about expressing gratitude and to formulate an appropriate survey, and to be able to extract the best, most effective and useful responses for the book.’

So what does Toula enjoy the most about writing?

‘I learned to read and write when I was two, completing my first novel on a typewriter Santa delivered just before I was three. Writing is part of who I am. Externalising thoughts and feelings into words on a page is sometimes the only way I am able to fully metabolise those things. I love that it’s always my subconscious leading the way, so that when I start creating a work of fiction, just like the audience of the book, I have absolutely no idea what the characters are going to do next. Writing for me sets free a sixth sense that is never truly engaged or switched on during every day life.’

So what does she find the hardest part of writing and/ or getting published?

‘Every single school report said the same thing about me, “Toula thinks too much.” It’s not a surprise considering all of the things I was holding inside during that time. Many years later, I think it’s the thinking too much that sometimes gets in the way of the writing. I compose so many incredible works of art in my head that I don’t always feel compelled to write them down.’

So if she could go back in time, what would she tell her younger writing self?

‘Of course, there are all of the usual and obvious things that I would say to my younger writing self, including, “just get on with it!” However, the most important things that need to be said are, “well done” and “thank you for recording the moment in words.”’

I wondered what Toula enjoys reading and asked for her favourite book and why she likes it?

‘Favourite - as in one book?! Not possible, I am afraid, so I shall share my favourite books and the reasons why.

1. What Katy Did and What Katy Did Next by Susan Coolidge. I read these over and over as a tiny girl (and still do from time to time) and realised that the values within the book(s) became my values; they helped form who I am as a person.

2. The Glass Castle, and Half Broken Horses (to be read in that order) by Jeannette Walls. Both books are an absolute masterclass in memoir writing, although Ms Walls refers to The Glass Castle as a ‘true novel.’ She relays details of an extremely difficult childhood with the wonder of being a member of a nomadic traveling family dealing with severe poverty, mental health and addiction issues. It’s exquisite in its unfolding tragedy and success.

3. Running With Scissors by Augusten Burroughs - another masterclass in writing a memoir of his bizarre and oftentimes disturbing childhood.

4. The Secret History, and The Goldfinch both by Donna Tartt. What can I say? These are two of the best crafted novels, written in the old-fashioned way where the story and characters lead the way. Nothing formulaic to be seen here.

5. Jitterbug Perfume by Tom Robbins. It’s mad and wonderful. A book filled with pure imagination taking you on the most epic journey of your life.’

What a wonderful selection! So what does she feel about reviews of her own books?

‘I do read reviews. The positive ones (which are thankfully far in the majority) fill you with gratitude; that the reader has not only enjoyed your efforts but has been affected enough to take the time to share that with others. If any negative reviewers leave details of exactly what didn’t work for them, then it gives me an opportunity to learn from their comments going forward. Ultimately, you can’t please all of the people all of the time however hard you try.’

This is such a great answer and I know many of you still don’t like writing reviews, especially if you’ve not enjoyed the book. Please see my post about this (press here) as authors really do want to hear from you! Is there anything she’d like to say to you, her potential readers?

‘Oh, yes please! I’d love to let them know just how grateful I am for them choosing to spend their hard earned money on my book(s) and for the time they have given to reading them. I don’t take any of that for granted at all. Those moments people spend reading the words I have written are like an invisible thread of connection that means the world to me.

I asked if there was anything else she’d like to add and she says,

‘Anything else you’d like to share? Thank you so much for reading thus far. If you do nothing else today but to make a list of three things that you are grateful for; however small and however unassuming those things might be, do it. It really will be the start of changing your life for the better.’

I asked Toula to give a tweetable-sized extract of her favourite part of the book and she says (tweet here):

"This is just what we need right now: gratitude, often the Cinderella of emotions, is given the star treatment in this charming, life-affirming book." - Joanna Lumley on ‘Attitude of Gratitude’


We’ve all experienced unforeseen challenges over the past few years and with world news seeming to revel in reporting doom, gloom and misery, it’s trickier than ever to remain upbeat. With so much negativity hitting us from all directions, I have to admit to being delighted when Toula approached me to review her book on gratitude - I was quite eager to find out more!

Toula’s introduction, where she talks about having a stressful day and using gratitude to put things back into perspective, really spoke to me. I guess we’ve all had tough days and an extract below highlights why this book might help:

‘Obviously I cannot guarantee that this book will magic away your difficulties and sleepless nights but I do know that being grateful and being kind fundamentally makes you a happier person and makes others happier to have you around, lifting everyone’s spirits including yours.’

So if that isn’t a good reason to try it, I don’t know what is!

In overview, this is predominantly a workbook with writing prompts to help make you look at life through more appreciative eyes. Toula has a lovely friendly writing style and it feels like you’re chatting with a pal over coffee. She starts the book with the survey she undertook on social media, open to all ages and backgrounds, with the questions asked/ responses received which were interesting to read (and resonated with me once I’d completed the program).

She mentioned there were ‘surveys and scientific data, too numerous to mention’ discussing the merits of gratitude so I went online to find out about the psychology and benefits of practising gratitude. It’s fascinating and the outcome, as Toula states, is that it can ‘lift your spirits and change your mood, improve relationships, and make you more hopeful for the future.’

In part 2 you learn what you need to do and she gives useful examples to get you started. Then the work is all down to you. She supplies the workbook for 30 days, to help you form a gratitude habit, with a #dailygratitude message before each day. I printed this part (as I had an electronic copy) and filled it in old-school, with a pen, yes a pen! But it made me stop and think, which I found helpful.

It became easier as I progressed, because I started recognising moments that deserved gratitude as they happened. It stopped being something I only noted at the end of the day, which was nice!

Toula ends the book with some bonus affirmations that you can continue to use beyond the workbook, to programme your brain to think more positively.

If you’re not already using gratitude daily then I recommend you treat yourself and buy this book - give yourself a few minutes every day and see how you feel after a month (and do comment below and let us know how you get on!). It would also make a lovely gift.

Toula also gives details of her #attitudeforgratitude movement where you can meet other like-minded individuals and share positive moments. How lovely! Find out more by visiting:





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  1. I do love the sound of this book, I've had a tough year so I'm going to give it a try. Thanks for highlighting.

    1. Aww, I'm sorry to hear this Penny. I hope things are improving and that the book helps too šŸ“ššŸ¤—

  2. What a great idea for a book. I will be buying as gifts for friends this year. If it even helps one of them, it will have been worth it.
    Thanks so much to all involved in this article.

    1. I agree Lorraine, it's a lovely gift, both physically and mentally! I'm sure your friends will be delighted.

  3. Great interview Tweetables, it made me smile.
    Fascinating author. I feel I'd like her in real life, so I'll be taking a look at her books now. Thanks.