He solicits secrets like a Catholic priest in a confessional booth.

Frank Warren had little to hide as he shared stories of his troublesome childhood, obstacles, and inspiration for creating the Post Secret collective during his appearance on Saturday, December 12th at Austin’s BookPeople to promote his new book “Confessions of Life, Death, and God”.

Warren began with a humorous anecdote about his disapproving mother and how she believed her son was crazy and corrupt in his pursuit of personal post card secrets. She even went as far to leave a bitter voicemail adamantly refusing his wife’s offer to send her a free copy of Warren’s first Post Secret book upon its publishing. Warren shared the recording with the crowd who occupied the entirety of the BookPeople loft sitting Indian-style on the floor by putting his iPhone to the humble microphone set-up. The crowd laughed at first at the biting voicemail that inspired memories of comically critical television mothers a la Marie on “Everybody Loves Raymond”. But as Warren continued to explain his relationship with his mother, he revealed a haunting childhood of abuse, alienation, and loneliness that prompted the birth of the Post Secret project.

Searching for a way to provide catharsis for others, to find connection in an increasingly isolated world, and to explore the silent stories that pride or fear leaves untold, Warren began distributing self-addressed stamped post cards in the streets of Washington D.C. and was pleased with the amount that made their way back to his mailbox. He collected the cards and presented them in a small gallery; content with the project he had collected. However, although Warren was finished with the secrets, the secrets were not finished with him. Through word of mouth, the Post Secret craze spread like swine flu and Warren has been receiving hundreds of postcards in his mailbox every week.

It takes Warren several hours every Saturday to rummage through the piles of post in his basement as he selects the lucky few to be a part of the narrative he will create for the weekly “Sunday’s Secrets”. Prompted by questions from the audience, Warren explained his process to select the post cards, choosing the ones that really stand out to him or one’s that can contribute with the storyline or theme he is trying to create for that week’s post.

University of Texas at Austin psychology student, Becky Scaduto says of Warren’s appearance at BookPeople: “It was really motivating to meet someone in person who had brought the thoughts of so many people together in such an amazing way.”

I found Frank Warren’s appearance at Book People incredibly inspiring. The use of art to provide catharsis for one’s self and others is very admirable. I like how the medium of postcards is so accessible, and the idea to collect secrets on these post cards is so simple but amazingly innovative. Definitely a case of “Why didn’t I think of that first” envy. I love his example of using art as an interactive form of communication, and was pleased when he revealed that he ties the secrets together purposefully to create a distinct narrative. Storytelling is one of the oldest human art and entertainment forms, and it is invigorating to see that old model of storytelling revised in a modern context.

Warren last visited Austin in 2006, at BookPeople then as well. He commented on his love for the people, feeling, and city of Austin and was glad to make it the finalé on his 2009 tour.

BookPeople is located on the corner of 6th and Lamar.


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