The Colour Thief: A Visually Stunning Story About the Nature of Happiness and the Power of Small Acts of Kindness

June 8, 2016

Every so often, a picturebook comes along that captures the art form perfectly. The Colour Thief, by Gabriel Alborozo, is such a picturebook: with minimal text, simple drawings and an explosion of colours, it takes us on a journey with Zot, an alien creature who lives in a colourless planet and decides to visit the Earth in order to experience its multicolour splendor.


Alborozo’s illustrations are  simple yet engaging, capturing beautifully the wonders of our world and an array of emotional transitions.

Upon coming to Earth, Zot realizes that living in a colourful world is wonderful, and after deciding against moving to Earth due to all of his friends that are waiting for him back home, he chooses to steal all the colour and take it with him.


Zot, mesmerized by the colourful surroundings, kept stealing colours.


“Zot stole all the colours…

calling them to him…

until every last colour…

had disappeared.”


Despite leaving everything grey and colourless, Zot doesn’t realise the consequences of his actions until he sees a boy walking down the hill with an orange balloon. Zot steals that colour too, but right before leaving he looks down and the sight of the sad boy in a grey planet changes his mind.

Zot decides to return the colours and readers are graced with a stunning celebration of colours dancing on page.


Despite the fortunate turn of events for Earth, Zot’s expression tells a different story. Consideration for others outweighs his desire to create a colourful world for him and his friends and of course Zot decides against taking things that aren’t his, yet Alborozo paints an honest emotional state for Zot and a sincere depiction of desire: doing the right thing isn’t always great nor does it make us feel elated, joyful or delighted. It can leave us feeling sad, disappointed, wanting.

As we turn the page, however, a heartwarming sequence of frames renders us witnesses of the power of a small act of kindness.

7 (2)

What emerges is a gentle reminder that happiness is often found in the tiniest, seemingly meaningless things and that even the smallest acts of kindness have transformative power.

The Colour Thief by Gabriel Alborozo (2014) is published by Bloomsbury Children’s Books

Lions do not eat catfood

July 6, 2015

I am on a mission. And the mission is to make you realise that whatever you need to know in this life, you are going to learn it from a picturebook. The truth is that I read an amazing storybook recently and I wanted to share the story with you. It’s about Clemence who wants a pet, but her parents are very clear, ‘Neither a cat, nor a dog!’ So Clemence, being very obedient, brings a lion. Unapologetically funny scenes follow:

Her mom decides to move out of country at the mere sight of the lion.

lions do not eat catfood 1

Clemence takes good care of the lion, but when lions have to go, they do not settle for small potties.


And, isn’t it apparent? Everyone loves that lion.

lions do not eat catfood 3

 Clemence does not have to worry about buying special food for the feline. And this is what has raised criticism among some parents: that the lion provides itself with the food it needs. And it is definitely not cat food. Or oat biscuits.

lions do not eat catfood 4

Personally, I loved this story because of its humour, the irony between words and pictures and that the writer did not try to domesticate the lion or turn it into something it is not. It let it be itself and wander in Clemence’s universe being exactly what it was.

There are so many avenues one could go with this book, but if I were to focus on the lion’s character, it seems that this storybook is such a great reminder to be unapologetically yourself. Love yourself, take care of yourself, let yourself love what they love.

As Chris Brogan says: Don’t settle: Don’t finish crappy books. If you don’t like the menu, leave the restaurant. If you‘re not on the right path, get off it.

A lion won’t eat cat food, why should you?

I read the story in Greek, in translation from the French Les Lions Ne Mangent Pas De Croquettes, by André Bouchard from Ekdoseis Diaplasis

Let words be your poison

January 23, 2015

3, 2, 1

Happy new year!

So maybe the way we count hours, days, months and years is based on an arbitrary system but still, you and I know that time passes and that, in any case, it’s 2015. And  within those seconds that count down to a new year, you can almost feel that you won’t be the same after the clock strikes twelve. And sometimes you are not. Because this is how change happens: you close your eyes, you smile and decide to live your life differently.

Last time I blogged, I concluded that I should start asking better questions. I was deep in my summer blues and writing about it, both offline and online, helped. It helped me cope with my life’s transitions and gave me a sense of control over what felt an inexplicable wave of emotions. And that’s normal. Because that’s what writing does: rather than allowing you to banish your sadness or avoid suffering, it helps you find a way to suffer better. ‘Do not ignore or throw away your grief,’ sculptor Richard Serra says. As opposed to the prevailing empty self help jargon to stay positive, taking a moment to acknowledge and process your feelings, gives you a chance to honour them. So I now write more. Not in order to finish a novel. Not to improve my writing skills. Not to get published, but as an emotional release, as a way to connect with myself and to one another.

And through a series of workshops, I want to share my insights of the last few years on therapeutic creative writing. Because I have learnt from Victoria Field that you don’t need therapy when you have creative writing: writing is that important because, as  Gillie Bolton says,  ‘it uses our ordinary everyday worlds and puts things together in different ways rather than tearing them apart – it puts elements together that weren’t together before. It’s that congruence, that meeting of different things that makes poetry flash fire and make things happen for us.’

Forget what your teacher or anyone has told you. Your writing is valid. Your writing is enough. Your writing is important. Write more this year, write freely. Discover yourself, write in odd places, on large pieces of paper, on post-its or even napkins. Write in quiet, uninterrupted places, write in a noisy cafe, in a stuffy waiting room. Let those well hidden emotions bubble to the surface. Let it be your psychotherapy, your meditation.

Alice in Wonderland, Illustration by John Tenniel

Alice in Wonderland, Illustration by John Tenniel

If you need an extra push you can start with an exercise from the book  The Writer’s Key by Gillie Bolton. Complete the following sentence beginnings. You can write a statement or a lot more than that. Don’t think too much. You can also do your exercise in the comments below or just share your feedback on how the exercise felt.

I am…

I know…

I think…

I believe…

I remember…

I feel…

I want…

I wish…

I can…

I wonder…

I hope…

I was told…

I promise myself I will…

 Join me. Let words be your drug, your poison of choice.

Love, Louiza


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Summer Blues

July 28, 2014

Endings. For me they always happen in the summer. I was born in the summer and although this period brings out my sunny nature, it also awakens my melancholic disposition.

New scenaria are pulling me to different directions and, suddenly, I somehow feel less fearless than I used to. Less animated. I talk less. I listen more. I question all my choices, my innate positivity disappears and under the big round sun, I am afraid I cannot shine anymore. Because I fear of things I can’t even define. And then it hits me: what if the world isn’t really my oyster and there are no shiny pearls but muddy, rainy mess everywhere?

 I am always looking for answers. And I have often looked for them in improbable places: people, books, stars, substances. And right when I need a sign, I look at the time it’s just 11:13, the lights are red and I always catch my favourite song on the radio when it’s about to end.

I cannot blame the universe for not giving me the answers I need in a fortune cookie. I know that. I also know that the best books do not give you answers; they invite you to ask more questions. Better questions. And I slowly realise that I have responsibility for the questions I am asking.

Sometimes asking the right questions is the answer.

Summer blues. Illustration by Lauren Child for the book The Princess and the Pea, 2006

Blue. Illustration by Lauren Child for the book The Princess and the Pea, 2006


Let’s mess with the way people tell stories

July 1, 2014

First of all, I have exciting news to share: the proposal for The Socialholic Typewriter is amongst the winners of the mahallae challenge! I am so thankful to everyone who supported and believed in this idea. The Socialholic Typewriter is amongst the 5 winning  ideas out of the 43 which were originally submitted to mahallae’s call, so it is definitely a great honour to be included in a diverse group of amazing tech-enabled peace initiatives: for example, i-vee, a game which aims to subtly encourage volunteerism or Yu-Biz, a platform dedicated to helping young entrepreneurs cooperate and initiate their professional career. Click the link below to read more about the rest of the winning proposals.

Last week I flew to Cyprus to attend a two-day intensive workshop led by Helena Puig Larrauri, a brilliant peace building practitioner who guided us through user centered design.  Helena blogged about the workshop here. During these two days we got to really break down our ideas,  prototype  them and pitch them to a group of people. Here is a short video of the preparation.

Of course a lot of the content was tweetable, so there you go:

At the end of the two-day workshop I was exhausted, but happy! Helena says, ‘It’s been a fantastic, exhausting and messy few days.’ And I actually love the messy part best of all. Because I feel that innovation comes from connecting the seemingly unconnected, creating a mess, a beautiful one, that will hopefully succeed in doing what it set out to do.

Honestly, I am so excited to be able to work on an idea which combines creative writing, visual art and technology at this particular time, as I feel that the impact of a social innovation in storytelling can be great. Earlier this month, I attended a hackathon on publishing which had participants (hackers, developers, entrepreneurs) find innovative ways to merge books and technology in order to address challenges in publishing. What stuck with me are the opening remarks by Matthew Cashmore, Digital Director of Blackwell’s Bookshop:


So what are you waiting for? Let’s mess with the way people tell stories! Drop us an email on

Would you Type on a Socialholic Typewriter?

May 30, 2014

Have you ever collaborated with someone to tell a story?

A few months ago, I had embarked on the most creative collaboration I have had in writing. My multi-talented friend, Constantinos Xenofontos, started creating sketches of semi-fictional characters and shared them online. He had only been posting them for a few days, when I had expressed my love for what he was doing, and we then spontaneously decided to collaborate: he would send me a character every day and I would write a short, accompanying story, as inspired by that particular character. The rule was that he would not tell me anything about them, so that I would not influenced. I would just create based on how I perceived what I saw. We called this The Semi-fictional Character of the Day Project and we decided that it would run for one month. This project was quite successful and we had a loyal group of readers who followed it with great interest. Personally, I was fascinated by the way Constantinos would create new characters every day, partly as inspired by his daily life, and partly as guided by his resourcefulness.

Week 2 semi-fictional characters by Constantinos Xenofontos

Week 2 semi-fictional characters by Constantinos Xenofontos

The dual form of storytelling had always fascinated me (as my doctoral research was on texts which combined words and pictures), but it was the first time that, as a co-creator I began to realise, how a collaboration between different people with diverse media could spark creativity and enable two individuals, thousand miles apart, to have a creative dialogue.

This realisation was partly the inspiration for the creation of an online tool which enables people to collaboratively tell stories, connect with their readers, and overcome creative writing blocks. The tool is called The Socialholic Typewriter and it is one of the finalists in the mahallae challenge common vision for the future in Cyprus. Read more about it here.

I do believe that our idea has the potential to innovate the way we tell, share and consume stories, supporting young people from different communities in Cyprus and the Euro-Mediterranean area to connect through creativity and collaboratively craft unique narratives.

If you believe in this idea too, would like to see it implemented, or would like to get involved, please:

1. go here in order to create a profile

2. click on the confirmation email (if you can’t see it, it has gone to spam)

3. vote for us by clicking endorse on our page right here

4. leave us a comment

Although we have gathered amazing people in our group and the idea has been embraced by important representatives of the literary world in Cyprus, our idea still needs your support to continue regardless of the voting outcome!

socialholic typewriter heart

I love you for supporting

 Do you have any comments, questions or suggestions about the way The Socialholic Typewriter will work? What has been your experience with collaborative writing? What other forms of storytelling (apart from words and pictures) have you used?



The Book Hangover

April 29, 2014

You might have heard about it.

I had always felt that it was an exaggeration, as each time I finish a book, I happily move on to the next one. A few weeks ago, however, when I finished reading a 900-pages book, I experienced profound sadness. And I almost felt ashamed of it. As if the world isn’t plagued with enough issues, there is me bemoaning the fact that there were not enough pages in my book. It is not as if the book was a masterpiece or the best thing I had ever read, but I found glimpses of truth in it and, quickly after finishing it, I found myself thinking about it while getting coffee or carrying my groceries. I even animatedly talked to friends about one of the characters. Regularly.

Right?! Illustration by Nicola O'Byrne for the book Open Very Carefully: A Book with Bite (Author Nick Bromley)

Right?! Illustration by Nicola O’Byrne for the book Open Very Carefully: A Book with Bite, 2013 (Author Nick Bromley)

Although at first I felt uncomfortable about my discomfort, my initial feelings of guilt are gone. Because 900 pages are sort of a big commitment. And I showed up for each of those pages. I became attached, involved, invested. And so much life has happened as I turned those leafs.

So I decided to address the issue and, as every responsible person would do, I sought professional help for my book hangover situation. That means that I googled it. And I actually got some really good suggestions:

‘Start a new book’  I did, but I found myself wondering about the fate of the characters of the old book during the first pages of the new book, so that did not work out very well. And then I was really judgmental and unfair with the new book: ‘That book’s character would never do this and that writer would never use such weak metaphors.’ And that was not true. But I did abandon it after the first pages.

‘Re-read the book’ This advice I did not even bother to follow because everyone knows that nothing is as good the second time around.

‘Discuss the book with friends’ The book was not exactly a new title, and it was 900 pages long so, practically speaking, I could not get a friend to read it overnight. But I found that speaking about books in general with people who love reading and treat fictional characters as real individuals lifts me up.

So I did not find a quick fix for my book hangover and, although I am an unrepentant runaway, addicted to the dope of literary escapism, it took a while until I embarked on a new reading journey. I just paused to experience the temporary nature of things. Of happiness, of safety. Of fictional universes you can no longer inhabit. And I am an advocate for a lot of causes around difficult issues which impact my country, but when a book you really connected with ends-that’s hard too. Because it involves loss.

And that’s life for you. Losing something in order not to feel lost ourselves.




How poetry can transform your life. Interview with Victoria Field

March 27, 2014

I blogged before about the healing power of words, so today I am very excited to be talking about this topic with a specialist. Victoria Field is a Poetry Therapist, a professional who brings together her twin passions for literature and psychology to enable people to identify issues, express their feelings and transform their life through the use of words. Victoria talks about her own journey, why she thinks that poems are powerful therapeutic tools, offers advice and, at the very end, she gives us homework!

Hi Victoria! I am so pleased and honoured to have you today on the blog to talk about the therapeutic power of poetry. When and how did your journey with poetry therapy begin?

My academic background is in psychology although I’ve always loved literature. I read voraciously as a child and  wrote letters and diaries, but it wasn’t until I did my first ever writing workshop on the island of Skyros at the age of 32 that I realised the power of using the material of my own life as a basis for poems and fiction. After working abroad for many years, I came back to the UK and took a job as Director of Survivors Poetry – an organisation that’s still thriving. That led me to Lapidus – ditto – and through contacts there, I found myself on a weekend workshop led by John Fox, an eminent practitioner of poetry therapy. I felt I’d come home. I’d never heard of Poetry Therapy as a profession but from that point on, knew it was for me. It brings together my interests in psychology and literature and also my own personal experience of the transformatory power of writing.

I would think that the work of a poetry therapist is premised on the belief that poems are powerful therapeutic tools. Would you agree?

Yes, poems are therapeutic tools. Many people have a favourite poem tucked into their handbag or wallet, or snipped out of a newspaper. Poems are commonplace now at weddings, funerals and baby namings. At times of great joy or sorrow, many people are moved to write a poem. When we read a poem that captures our experience accurately, we feel we aren’t alone.

Why do poems have this therapeutic potential?

I think a poem is a contained space – it’s manageable, in contrast to the chaos of the world around us and the things life might throw at us. Good poems are richly ambiguous – they don’t tell us what to think, but open an imaginative space where we can find ourselves. Poems are provisional – they are like a snapshot – and offer the potential for change.

Can you explain the role of a poetry therapist? 

Many people discover the benefits of reading and writing poetry for themselves.  The role of the Poetry Therapist is to harness these natural impulses with the express intention of promoting health and wellbeing. Poetry – like fire or any other powerful medium should also be handled with care.  It is possible for individuals to write themselves into a dark place, and working with someone trained can help to keep the process safe – but not too safe.  The Poetry Therapist can offer appropriate challenges and to facilitate change, or to enable an individual to have a more nuanced take on life.  A lot of human suffering is due to seeing the world or the self as all-good or all-bad – poems have the ability to transform and re-imagine difficult life situations.

As a poetry therapist, you have an extensive experience in various settings with different groups. Can you share any examples from your practice?

Poetry therapy can be well adapted to be used in many circumstances – for example, where people may not be able to write themselves, the poetry therapist can ‘scribe’ for them.  Sometimes, the poetry therapist will focus on reading aloud and eliciting responses.  It can be used in one-to-one psychotherapy – my friend and colleague Dr Niall Hickey of Poetry Reach in Ireland does so extensively and his clients actually write in the consulting room.  My own practice is mostly with groups where the sharing of writing is part of the therapeutic process.

I have worked in many different settings, including on a stroke unit, care homes, one-to-one with someone with dementia over a couple of years, a day hospital for people with diagnoses of severe and enduring mental illness. However my main interest is in the use of poetry therapy for people with mild mental health problems such as depression and anxiety, for whatever reason.  I am convinced that, like a programme of exercise, reading and writing in a group has enormous potential for people to gain a sense of mastery over their condition, whatever it is.  I would love there to be more research in this area, especially as low-level unhappiness is endemic in our society.

Nowadays we are overwhelmed by self-help books. What is your opinion on self help books/non-fiction as opposed to literature/poetry therapy?

I love self-help books!  I read lots of popular psychology as well as more academic stuff.  I’m also very keen on memoir and life-writing – I think the more we engage with other people’s stories, the more we can understand our own.

You are a poet, a writer, a playwright. Have you found writing therapeutic for you?

Yes, I am a published creative writer and whilst I keep that separate from my practice as a Poetry Therapist in my professional life, my inspiration for both comes from the same well.  I think it is really important that anyone working with others understands her own processes.  Sometimes though, these are only apparent later.  For example, I am working on my third play – the central character is a Victorian Bishop and it’s based on real events, even though I’ve changed many details. I’ve had two plays previously produced by Hall for Cornwall – one about a butcher and his family and the other a riff on Grimms fairy tales and the collapse of communism.  It’s only now that I see that all three plays – ostensibly very different – have a concern with the role of fathers.  So, I’m working through something even if it’s unconscious at the time.

That’s why I like different  genres – poetry for me is about sound and image, drama is about moral dilemmas and motivation, fiction gives characters the opportunity to ‘walk around’ in their own lives with the narrator acting as a kind of all-seeing eye, or a filter.  I’ve also written as-yet unpublished book-length memoir about walking to Santiago in which I told the story of a marriage and got something out of my system. Yes, my writing is definitely therapeutic for me – I can’t imagine not doing it.

How can someone train to qualify as a poetry therapist?

There’s no accreditation for Poetry Therapy in the UK but there are plenty of people working using writing and reading therapeutically.  I take on trainees under the auspices of the US National Federation for Biblio-Poetry Therapy – see my website  The starting point I recommend in the UK, is to join Lapidus – a vibrant group reflecting the breadth and depth of practice in the field.

I am a primary school teacher and I have witnessed, in various occasions, the therapeutic potential of literature. Do you have any advice/suggestions for me to integrate aspects of poetry therapy into my practice?

I used to work in schools and observed how empowering it is when a child or student writes and reads aloud a poem or story that has come from an authentic place.  The crucial thing about poetry therapy is that it’s non-judgemental and it’s about the depth of the process rather than a literary endeavour so I’d say the aspect to incorporate is permission to experience writing ‘in the moment’ and to accept what comes, rather than trying to fix either the writer or the writing.

Do you have any suggestions for those of us who want to learn more about this fascinating area?

I’d say, join Lapidus and get involved with your local group.  Members have access to the Lapidus Journal online which is full of interesting articles and resources.  There’s also a Lapidus Facebook group where people post useful links to articles and events.  There are lots of blogs out there – including my own mentioned above.

Can you give a poetry therapy exercise/challenge to our readers?

Find a book of poems and read aloud one that appeals to you.  Read it several times and observe your reactions – do you respond to any particular line or image?  How does the poem make you feel?  Then take a line from the poem and use that to write your own (a poem doesn’t have to be formal, rhyming or even ‘poetic’) – just write without judgement.  Then read what you’ve written.  What does it tell you?

Beautiful! Victoria, I want to thank you for sharing all these valuable insights. As for you, dear readers, make sure you do Victoria’s exercise; if you can’t find a poem, see if you can use the one I have shared here, written  by Victoria Field and post your response below! If you want to learn more about Victoria’s work, do check her website and grab a copy of her books.

Full Moon at Little White Alice

In spite of hats, coats and candles, we’re cold and fear
is in the frosty air: for our own health, that of others,
for the planet, our families, businesses and love affairs,
paintings or projects. We’re afraid of moving and changing,

the process by which butterflies leave the chrysalis,
a new-born baby first cries, tearing open her lungs.
Stagnating’s not an option. Time taunts us: the ticking clock
mocking our bodies, no longer young, a slow decoupling

from our sister moon. We walk in silent meditation round
the high, granite-strewn pool, seeing, as we step with care,
a frill of thin ice form in the reeds along the edge, watch,
amazed, as Rosie suddenly sheds all of her clothes. She dives,

spine curved in a crescent, breaks the black water, sending
courage, like a scatter of stars, up into the still January air.

from The Lost Boys published by Waterloo Press  


Semi-Fictional Character of the Day #day29

March 17, 2014

‘The Semi-Fictional Character of the Day’ is a joint, one-month project by Louiza Mallouri and Constantinos Xenofontos. Constantinos will be sketching a semi-fictional figure every day, and Louiza will be writing an accompanying storyline, as inspired by that character. The aim of this project is to explore the way two semiotic systems, the visual and the linguistic, interact and complement each other to tell a story.

semi-fictional character29

He locked the church and walked down the cliff top, intoxicated by the scent of lemon trees in bloom-it was springtime. The sun was about to set and the view of the island was breathtaking. All was good in the world.

Semi-Fictional Character of the Day #day28

March 16, 2014

‘The Semi-Fictional Character of the Day’ is a joint, one-month project by Louiza Mallouri and Constantinos Xenofontos. Constantinos will be sketching a semi-fictional figure every day, and Louiza will be writing an accompanying storyline, as inspired by that character. The aim of this project is to explore the way two semiotic systems, the visual and the linguistic, interact and complement each other to tell a story.

semi-fictional character day28

S/he always changed. S/he used different names, clothing, accessories and stories to create the person s/he chose to be. Layers of make up, dresses, high heels, boots, wigs, jeans… A screenwriter, director and performer of her/his own life. S/he didn’t take anything seriously, not even people-it was all just a play. S/he didn’t linger within a particular skin for too long anyway, s/he felt confined, trapped, defined, so every once and a while s/he would do it all over again.

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