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Frank Warren Reveals PostSecret Secrets

Speaking tonight, the phenomenon’s founder moves to religious territory

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Frank Warren shares secrets tonight in the School of Law Auditorium.

Just like anyone else, 24-year-old Lakeasha Perry, of North Carolina, has one or two secrets. She could tell them to her best friend, her family, or her boyfriend, but if she were going to tell anyone her darkest secrets, she says, it would be someone she’s never met — Frank Warren, the man dubbed, “the most trusted stranger in America.”

“He wouldn’t judge me,” Perry says, as she flips through Warren’s latest book, PostSecret: Confessions on Life, Death, and God, at Barnes & Noble at Boston University in Kenmore Square last week. “He’s heard it all.”

Warren, who will discuss his experiences as founder and moderator of the PostSecret phenomenon tonight in the School of Law Auditorium, no doubt would contend that he hasn’t heard it all just yet. But since beginning his community art project five years ago, he’s received nearly half a million postcards offering glimpses into humanity’s most intimate possession: its secrets.

“It’s an undertaking full of mystery and wonder,” he says. “I still don’t know exactly what the project is or where it’s going to take me, but I’m excited about it every day.”

In October 2004, when Warren took a trip to Washington, D.C., he distributed 3,000 self-addressed postcards around the city, handing them to strangers, tucking them inside books, leaving them on park benches.

“You are invited to anonymously contribute a secret to a group art project,” the postcards read. “Your secret can be a regret, fear, betrayal, desire, confession, or childhood humiliation. Reveal anything — as long as it is true and you have never shared it with anyone before. Be brief. Be legible. Be creative.”

Roughly 100 postcards were returned. He displayed them in an exhibition, and thought the experience had ended. But new postcards kept trickling in, handmade, postmarked from other states and countries. “I never anticipated the responses I’d get, but I feel an obligation to share these important stories,” he says.

Share them he has, with 1.5 million weekly visitors to his blog, PostSecret.com, where he scans and uploads 20 new secrets every Sunday morning, with 485,000 Facebook followers, who post questions, comments, reactions, and secrets of their own, and with 208,000 Twitter followers, who hang on the 140 characters of insight Warren shares.

“We have so many new ways to communicate with each other; there are thousands of new possibilities,” he says. “New tools allow for new conversations — we can share ourselves in ways we may not have expressed before.”

His followers concur.

“I think it’s neat to be able to put something out there about yourself that you might not have been able to otherwise,” says Katrina Trisko (SAR’12).

Would she ever send in a secret? “Maybe if I had one that was worthy enough to share,” she says.

But to Warren, every secret is worthy. “Sometimes they’re funny, or shocking, or sexual, or dark,” he says, “but every secret has taken on more gravity and more meaning as time’s gone on.”

Angeera Khadka (CAS’13) agrees. “My friends usually find them funny, but they can be moving and sad too,” she says. “They really reveal something so deep; you feel more connected to everybody.”

Warren believes the collection of secrets found in his latest book, focusing on life, death, and God, “are very soulful. These are full-frontal confessions on how we really feel about the stuff we can’t share at church, or the synagogue, or the mosque.”

Some secrets are humorous (“I’m starting rabbinical school and I love bacon!”), some shocking (“I use a bracelet of Jesus to hide my cutting scars”).

“Receiving all these secrets definitely makes an impact,” says Warren. “Put it this way: my own faith is evolving.”

He’s eager to share that evolution with BU’s college crowd.

“I’m absolutely excited to come to Boston,” he says. “Young people are more alive than adults, more open. This generation is helping us become more courageous in our vulnerabilities. They’re more involved in trying to understand what’s legitimate and real and less caught up in who they’re supposed to be.”

“Hey, I have some weird thoughts,” echoes Perry as she closes the book and returns it to the Barnes & Noble shelf. “He gets it. The weird thoughts are what make us all normal.”

Warren will speak and sign copies of his book, PostSecret: Confessions on Life, Death, and God, at the LAW Auditorium, 765 Commonwealth Ave., at 7 p.m. tonight, Thursday, October 15, sponsored by Barnes & Noble at BU. Tickets are available for $5 and include a coupon for the book redeemable at the event or in-store, and can be purchased in advance at Barnes & Noble at BU, by calling 617-236-7405, or at the event.

Katie Ryan can be reached at krryan@bu.edu.

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