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. The new tome, a collection of inspirational essays and mantras, 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,” says Guest SeptemberLetters.com. It is overseen by editor Stacey Lindsay, who developed the platform with profiles, happiness stories, 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 features conversations with mental health experts like David Kessler, Gretchen Rubin, Mark Epstein and Jay Shetty. “We spent almost nine months on back-to-back Zooms with experts. I felt like I was going to a mental health college,” 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 well-known friends like Anna Camp and Kid Cudi for contributions. “I’m bad at asking for favors,” Snow says with a laugh. “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 souls,” says Snow. “They did it as a favor at first, but it was a therapeutic exercise that helped them a lot.” For example, actress and dancer Maddie Ziegler discusses why they embrace going to therapy; Maria Menounos, who recently revealed she survived pancreatic cancer, writes about how her health challenges have changed her outlook on life. changed lives; and Jordana Brewster discusses overcoming her instinct to please people.
The September Letters project is inspired by a life-changing experience Snow had growing up 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 I gave words and feelings to something I was going through. I heard my story in her words, and I tore out that article and kept it in my back pocket for months as a symbol of hope that someone had overcome what I was going through.
Snow got a complete surprise in her early twenties. “Many years later I wrote an article for a magazine telling me how that article had helped me and how I had gotten better,” she recalls. “I went to a coffee shop and there was a girl 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 a mantra I kept telling myself,” says Snow, “and I still do it now when I’m going through something tough: ‘You’ll get through this. There’s a reason this matters.’ It kept me going.”
Gast, an old friend, encouraged Snow to share her experiences with the launch of September Letters. “I remember telling Jasper that story,” 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 became collaborators who first connected years ago at an event where Guest was the publicist.
“We instantly bonded,” says Guest.
“We bonded with Champagne,” Snow jokes.
“Now we’re going to find a champagne sponsor,” Guest teases back.
Until that happens, there’s coffee: September Letters is collaborating with La La Land Kind of Cafe in The Grove, where customers get a Post-It Note during the month of May to share words of encouragement on their coffee shop wall. “Post-it notes make us deliriously happy,” says Guest. “In a psychotic way.”
They also made the limited edition September Letters Latte, a cotton candy milk tea latte with butterfly cream puffs, which Mental Health Coalition, which gives people access to mental health resources. In addition, Snow and Guest will organize a signing session and conversation with The Conversation co-host Amanda Kloots at The Grove on May 25.
Snow also recently 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 Parachutestarring Courtney Eaton and Thomas Mann, THR critic Leslie Felperin called the film a “sharp, impressively honest portrait of a complicated relationship”.)
“I knew this story had to be told because I went through something similar in my early twenties,” says Snow. “The most altruistic form of love is when someone realizes they love you enough to leave you – to let you go – because they would rather see you sane. I hadn’t seen that movie yet and I wanted a movie to tell me I was going to be okay because that was my form of therapy when I was going through it.
Snow made the film during COVID. “It was a beautiful time,” she says. “I crashed with five movies a day and read all the books and did all the research.” While she never intended to become a director, Snow said she can see herself directing “a lot more” in the future. “I didn’t think I’d get that bug, but I like collaboration and using magical, talented people,” she says.
Snow and Guest have big plans for the future of September Letters and hope to develop a docuseries based on their book. “Jaspre and I have called them ‘living letters,’ where people talk about their story and we get to see their story through their eyes,” says Snow. “Selena Gomez had a great (movie, My mind and me) which came out recently and thank goodness for that. … But we also need people who aren’t in Hollywood to talk about their stories. They are just as important and should be showcased. The more people are open and honest with their stories, the more people will realize they are 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.