Letters to mum: Samuel Johnson’s new book

It's a collection of letters from notable Australians to their mums.

He’s unconventional, disarmingly genuine and charming.

Samuel Johnson, who created Love Your Sister, a “million strong village” of Australians committed to vanquishing cancer, has brought together 90 celebrities and well-known Australians for ‘Dear Mum’.

He invited them to write a letter to their mums and it’s emotional, funny, brilliant.

Samuel answered some questions with Danielle Galvin at the end of his promotional tour for the book, which raises funds for cancer research.

1. Firstly congratulations on the new book. I really love the idea of asking people what they’d tell their mums. Everyone’s relationship with their mums is so unique/complicated isn’t it? Is this a call to action that we all need to go and have a chat to our mums if we still can?

We know that we love people. We throw around “I love you“ without a second thought. But how often do we take the time to really explore why we love someone? Exactly why. Or precisely how? Writing a letter, honestly and from the heart, inevitably opens a can of worms. You discover feelings you didn’t know you had. Stuff that’s been bottled up for years. You gain appreciation and insight. And the recipient is invariably left richer, and the letter invariably has a great impact. We like to be valued or the right reasons, especially by those closest to us. It’s been a truly cathartic experience for each and every contributor. Even if your mum is lost, like mine, and will never read the letter, it still helps to express it all. I’m immensely touched that many of our readers have given this book to their mums with their own letter inserted. The proverbial bus might hit us tomorrow. I’d rather die knowing my loved ones knew exactly how I felt about them. And letters just mean more. It’s like having a poem or a song written about you.

2. Recently you visited the Mornington Peninsula, and I saw a good friend’s mum got a photo with you! I went on to the LYS Facebook page and there were dozens of other people who you happily posed for photos with, and you look genuinely happy to meet people and hear their stories. Has this been a part of the Love Your Sister journey you love?

I’ve visited over 1200 towns during my tenure as Head of Cancer Vanquishment at ’Love Your Sister’ and it’s my face time with other families that fuels my work and provides a sense of belonging that I never felt in showbiz. People think it must weigh heavy, given the horrific effects of cancer on families, but sharing our stories is never a tax, always an honour and energises me in ways that are hard to explain.

3. Is there a story/letter in the book that will particularly surprise/touch readers do you think?

Guy Pearce’s letter to his mum, lost to dementia for 22 years now, is the letter that will never leave me. They all leave their mark, but Guy’s letter is indelibly etched into my soul. That letter isn’t going anywhere.

4. I’ve heard you describe the book as a wonderful montage for all kinds of mums. Even though we know mums can be flawed, complicated. I thought was so beautifully said. I can imagine collating the book was incredibly difficult at times too – such an emotionally charged topic?

Thankfully, our contributors respected my request for complete honesty, which, delightfully, means this collection of letters is an intricate of real mums, as opposed to some Hallmark tribute to the idea of mums. It’s what I’m most proud of about this book. It’s a true tribute.

For more information check out the Love Your Sister website: https://www.loveyoursister.org/