PostSecret founder to speak at Long Center Thursday

Katie Walsh

A postcard that reads “Everybody that knew me before 9/11 thinks I am dead,” was waiting inside PostSecret’s founder Frank Warren’s Maryland mailbox.

The anonymous card is one of dozens that Warren receives daily, each with intimate secrets scrawled on the back and no return address. With his art project PostSecret, Warren invites people to write a secret they’ve never shared on a postcard and send it anonymously to Warren’s address. He reads every single one — over a million to date — and publishes them to the PostSecret blog. On Thursday at 7:30 p.m., Warren will read some of the life-changing secrets he’s received during a live multimedia event at the Long Center.

“I think of PostSecret as a celebration of secrets,” Warren said. “Even though there are some heavy ones, there are certainly funny ones and hopeful ones. It kind of touches every part of
the spectrum.”

From confessions of writing gay fan fiction during class to admissions of infidelity, Warren has seen it all. He said sometimes people tape items to the postcard such as naked photos or military dog tags, but the items he receives most often are wedding rings and razor blades.

He saves everything. He said he will post any secret, no matter how controversial, as long as it sounds authentic and abides by his two rules — no glitter and no blood.

After two failed postcard-related art projects, Warren launched the PostSecret blog in 2005 in search of something fun and meaningful. Eventually the blog went viral, reaching over 700 million hits to date.

“I had this belief that most people have these rich interior lives they don’t get a chance to share,” Warren said. “But if I could find a way to earn people’s trust so they could share those stories, it could really be something special.”

Although it was never his intention, Warren said PostSecret became a way for him to reconcile buried secrets of his own. Having lived through a difficult childhood, Warren said reading other people’s secrets gives him a sense of solidarity.

“I started recognizing my own secrets in the postcards [I received] from strangers,” Warren said. “I didn’t think I was doing [PostSecret] for myself, but it turned out to be just as helpful for me.”

Warren said there is something universally compelling about reading and writing secrets that have never been shared before. The readers benefit from understanding they are not alone in their struggles, and the authors benefit from the relief of finally sharing a secret they’ve cooped up inside.

At the live multimedia event Thursday, Warren will call audience members to share their cooped-up secrets in front of the audience. He said he also plans to project postcards onto the wall and discuss the stories behind the secrets as well as discuss a few of his own.

Over the course of 10 years, PostSecret has inspired an exhibit at the Smithsonian National Postal Museum as well as a play, five books and a potential TV series for 2016.

“I just try and follow where it leads and not screw up the relationship I’ve established with strangers,” Warren said. “This formula has worked, and people have trusted me with these deep, deep secrets that they wouldn’t share anywhere else. I think that relationship is what makes the project so special."