The secrets live on

BY DANA JUDAS | AUGUST 25, 2009 7:05 AM

Everyone has a dirty little secret — something that maybe only one person in the entire world knows. It could be something frightening, courageous, or downright inappropriate (what happens at the neighborhood barbecue doesn’t always stay there).

Before 2005, there was seemingly no outlet for individuals to anonymously air their dirty laundry in a constructive and artistic way. Enter Frank Warren — the founder of the ongoing mail art project, PostSecret.

What began as an experimental blog featuring anonymous secret-laden postcards from individuals around the country has sparked a phenomenon that includes coffee-table books and pieces in the national news media. Five years later, the founder receives more than 1,000 postcards and envelopes weekly at his home — some of which were even featured in the 2005 All-American Rejects music video “Dirty Little Secret.”

Today, Warren will present the Cassandra S. Foens Welcome Week Lecture, “PostSecret: The Most Trusted Stranger in America.” The event will begin at 7:30 p.m. in the IMU Main Lounge; it is free to the public.

Attendees will have a chance to come to the microphone after the lecture and share their own secrets. Unlike the book or website, secrets will not remain anonymous, though Warren said there is always a line at the podium with fans eager to express themselves.

“I really feel like students particularly are trying to search and find that difference between what’s true and what’s bullshit,” he said. “Most of the secrets are pretty heavy. There are some lighthearted ones … but a lot of them are tragic and make me feel the anguish of the person who wrote them … as human beings, we really need to hear them and understand that other people have the same kind of burdens we do.”

The fifth installment of the Postsecret books, titled PostSecret Confessions on Love, Death, and God, is due in bookstores Oct. 6 — and Warren insists it is “the best book yet.”

University Lecture Committee chairwoman Amee Bhavsar wrote in an e-mail that though the Lecture Committee likes to open its annual Welcome Week series with interesting, lighthearted, and fun topics, the lecturers’ content also needs to be fresh and intellectually stimulating.

“Mr. Warren will lead a fascinating discussion by sharing the stories behind the memorable postcards and secrets he has received,” Bhavsar wrote. “The notes range from deep family secrets to funny reflections to individuals simply attempting to understand their own intricacies.”

Jill Menning, a UI sophomore and an avid PostSecret reader, said she is excited about attending the event.

“I feel super-connected to other people when I read them,” she said.

Menning has written two postcards to Warren but has not yet sent them, and she said she hopes that the lecture will give her the extra push she needs to share her secrets with the world.

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