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Brittany Snow and Jaspre Guest’s HarperCollins book September Letters: Finding Strength and Connection in Sharing Our Stories is Chicken Soup for the Soul for a new generation. A collection of inspirational essays and mantras, the new tome is an extension of the duo’s online mental health platform, which launched in 2020 and features soul-affirming content submitted by (often anonymous) writers in the form of letters as a means of free therapy.
“We wanted to build a place that was safe, where people could feel connected,” Guest says of SeptemberLetters.com. It’s overseen by editorial director Stacey Lindsay, who has evolved the platform to include profiles, stories exploring happiness and additional mental health resources.
Like the September Letters website, Snow and Guest’s new book is a love letter to those seeking advice, inspiration and community, and it includes conversations with mental health experts such as David Kessler, Gretchen Rubin, Mark Epstein and Jay Shetty. “We spent almost nine months doing back to back Zooms with experts. I felt like I went to a mental health university,” Guest says of writing it. “It was important to us that there are some tangible, easy takeaways and exercises in the book.”
Snow also asked famous friends like Anna Camp and Kid Cudi to contribute. “I’m bad at asking for favors,” Snow says, laughing. “It makes me hot and anxious. I hate it.” But to Snow’s surprise, her friends embraced the exercise, each revealing deeply personal experiences. “They came back with these incredible letters from their soul,” Snow says. “They were doing it at first as a favor, but it was a therapeutic exercise that they got a lot out of.” Actress and dancer Maddie Ziegler, for instance, discusses why she’s embraced going to therapy; Maria Menounos, who recently revealed that she survived pancreatic cancer, writes about how her health challenges changed her perspective on life; and Jordana Brewster discusses overcoming her instinct to be a people pleaser.
The September Letters project was inspired by a life-altering experience Snow had growing up while navigating the complexities of self-harm. “When I was a teenager, I found an article in a magazine,” Snow explains. “It was the first time that I put words and feelings to something that I was going through. I heard my story in her words, and I ripped out that article and I kept it in my back pocket for months as a symbol of hope that there was someone who had overcome what I was going through.”
Snow was met with a full-circle surprise in her early 20s. “Many years later, I did an article for a magazine where I talked about how that article had helped me and how I’d gotten better,” she remembers. “I went to a coffee shop and there was a girl standing in line and she turned around and she was crying. She had my article in her back pocket. This moment changed my life.”
Snow has long been open about her struggles with anxiety and depression. “As a teenager, there was this mantra that I kept saying to myself,” says Snow, “and I still do it now when I go through something hard: ‘You’re going to get through this. There’s a reason this matters.’ It kept me going.”
Longtime friend Guest encouraged Snow to further pay her experiences forward with the launch of September Letters. “I remember telling that story to Jaspre,” Snow recalls, “and she said, ‘You should start something. I’ll help you and we’ll do it together.’ She formulated this plan.”
As for Guest and Snow’s meet-cute, the friends turned collaborators first connected years ago at an event where Guest was the publicist.
“We had an instant bond,” Guest says.
“We bonded over Champagne,” Snow jokes.
“Now we’re going to get a Champagne sponsor,” Guest teases back.
Until that happens, there’s coffee: September Letters has partnered with La La Land Kind Café at The Grove where for the month of May, customers will be offered a Post-It Note to share encouraging words on their coffee shop’s wall. “Post-It notes make us deliriously happy,” Guest says.
They’ve also created the limited-edition September Letters Latte, a cotton-candy milk tea latte with butterfly cream clouds, benefiting the Mental Health Coalition, which provides people access to mental health resources. Additionally, Snow and Guest will be hosting a book signing and conversation with The Talk co-host Amanda Kloots at The Grove on May 25.
Snow also recently co-wrote and directed her first feature film, Parachute, which debuted at SXSW this year. The romantic drama follows a girl who returns from rehab after struggling with an eating disorder and body dysmorphia. (In her review of Parachute, which stars Courtney Eaton and Thomas Mann, THR critic Leslie Felperin called the film an “astute, impressively honest portrait of a complicated relationship.”)
“I knew that this story needed to be told because I went through something similar when I was in my early twenties,” Snow says. “The most altruistic form of love is when someone realizes that they love you enough to leave you — to let you go — because they’d rather see you be mentally well. I hadn’t seen that movie yet and I wanted a movie to tell me that it was going to be okay because that was my form of therapy when I was going through it.”
Snow created the film during COVID. “It was a beautiful time,” she sys. “I crash coursed with five movies a day and reading all the books and doing all the research.” While she never set out to be a director, Snow said she can see herself directing “a lot more” in the future. “I didn’t think I would catch that bug but I love collaboration and utilizing magical, talented people,” she says.
Snow and Guest have big plans for the future of September Letters and hope to develop a docu-series based on their book. “Jaspre and I have been calling them ‘living letters,’ where people are talking about their story and we can see their story through their eyes,” Snow says. “Selena Gomez had a great [film, My Mind and Me] that came out recently and thank gosh for that. … But we also need people not in Hollywood talking about their stories. They’re just as important and need to be showcased. The more that people are open and honest with their stories, the more people will realize they’re not alone. There is an answer and there is hope.”
A version of this story first appeared in the May 17 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. Click here to subscribe.
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