How to Tell a Secret with Frank Warren (book giveaway)

Friday March 22, 2013 Written by smith

Frank Warren is the gatekeeper of more secrets than anyone else in the world, they are sent to him on postcards and underpants and potatoes, and they are published on his website, PostSecret.

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You've been running PostSecret for eight years now, how much mail do you receive each week.

I get hundreds of postcards every week. Right now I'm looking at a pile of postcards much taller than I am. I think the total is somewhere over a half million postcards, from all over the world.

What else do people send you? You must get some weird stuff.

I've received secrets written and mailed to me on seashells, a sonogram, naked Polaroid pictures, a bra, a flip flop, a knife. I received a potato with a secret on it. I've also received more than one wedding band.

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You've published a few PostSecret books and you're touring Australia soon, how does a website go on tour?

Pretty easily actually. My favourite part of the PostSecret live events is really telling a story and sharing some of the postcards that were banned from the book. We also try to create a sort of non-judgemental space and a social place where people can share their own secrets live.

Doesn't that go against the whole anonymous nature of the PostSecret site?

It sounds like the opposite, but I think of it as a further expression of the idea. At PostSecret events I try to take that same space from the web and recreate it in a physical space. When you hear a secret and see a person's face it's pretty real.

Can you give us a sense of what that's like?

The secrets can be silly and funny, which I like a lot. At the last PostSecret event in London, a person came to the microphone and said, "I'm a 60-year-old college professor and I deliver most of my lectures high." Another person, a young guy, his secret was a surprise proposal to his girlfriend who was in the audience. Thankfully she said yes.

People really put themselves out there don't they?

I think of it as being courageous and vulnerable at the same time. And it can really be electrifying to see someone in front of 1000 people say something they've never told their family, friends or spouse.

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Tell us about the postcards and secrets that were banned from the books. What puts a secret on the banned list?

I think secrets are at different levels. Secrets are not always comfortable. They can be painful or politically incorrect or offensive. Or they can involve nudity. They can be real raw. At the events I like to show more than I'm able to show in the book.

Have you ever followed up any of the PostSecrets?

I once received a postcard from a guy who sent me a picture of a book he'd self published, he said, "This book is my 900 page suicide note." I put that on the web, people saw the cover of the book and they went and tracked it down. In the end maybe hundreds of people actually purchased the book from him. They started reading it and loving it. It was this whole sort of fantasy story. He sent me a follow up messages that said, "Sending my secret to you allowed me to find this audience and it saved me." When I was in the UK recently a woman came up to me and said she had purchased the book, and had this online conversation with the guy about it, and how great she thought it was. That story for me was really meaningful.

How do you keep on top of all these secrets? Do you read each one yourself?

I'm really bad at delegating. I think in some ways that's handicapped the development of the project. All the postcards come to my home and I read every one.

Where do you keep them all?

That's a secret.

Frank Warren PostSecret tour dates:

Brisbane: Sun Apr 14, Brisbane Theatre SOLD OUT
Sydney: Tues Apr 16, Enmore Theatre SOLD OUT
Sydney: Wed Apr 17, Enmore Theatre, 8.30pm. Tickets from $32.50 + bf via Ticketek
Melbourne: Thurs Apr 18, Hamer Hall, 8pm. Tickets from $32 + bf via Arts Centre Melbourne
Perth: Sat Apr 20, The Astor Theatre, 8pm. Tickets from $30.50 + bf via Show Ticketing

We have two copies of Warren's book PostSecret: Confessions on Life, Death, and God to give away. Send your name and address to giveaways@smithjournal.com.au to enter.