Thursday, June 10, 2010

PostSecret Event with Frank Warren in Pittsburg Kansas

In late April I attended a PostSecret event with Frank Warren in Pittsburg, Kansas. If you're not familiar with PostSecret, you can look forward to spending part of every Sunday with it from now on.

People mail Frank postcards with their secrets. Some are mini works of art, some more hastily made. Some are funny, some touching, and some heartbreaking. He said people have mailed him secrets on everything from fast food wrappers to fake bananas to a real potato.

He said secrets start to fall into some broad, general categories over time. And he said he has learned there are two kinds of secrets. He said, "There are the secrets we hide from other people. And the secrets we keep from ourselves."

Greg went with me, because we were headed on to Joplin to visit his mom, and although he wasn't a fan going in I think he was one coming out. We were lucky enough to be in the front row. I had called for tickets shortly after I saw it noted on the PostSecret list of events. It turned out to be a huge bonus that I was down front.

Frank asked if anyone had ever mailed in a secret, and I raised my hand. He asked how it felt and I said, "good." He came over to the edge of the stage and handed me a copy of his latest book, "Confessions on Life, Death, and God." I had the two books I already owned in my bag, hoping to get an autograph later, so I was thrilled to add to my collection. Not to mention that it was handed over by Frank himself.

I met him a few years ago at a National Mental Health Association conference in DC when he was getting an award. It was when I was the director of the local MHA, of course. After the awards presentation that evening I went over to tell him how much I loved PostSecret but just had a few seconds with him. He asked if I'd ever sent a secret and at that time I hadn't. Since then I've sent two. Neither has shown up on the website as far as I know.

We were asked to take photos only during the first five minutes of the presentation, which probably explains why all the photos we see of PostSecret events look much the same - Frank on a stool or walking around the stage. He made some opening comments, then showed some of the postcards that didn't make it into the books and talked about why - often a copyright issue.

He talked about his process, how PostSecret grew from his original concept of an art project, and how secrets affect us all. He said he thinks of sending a secret as "the first act in a journey. That act can change who you are." He spoke later in the presentation about how, "Each one of us has a secret that would break your heart if you knew it." He said he thought that could make us feel compassion and empathy, that could lead to peace.

One of the most compelling things he said was, "Children almost broken by the world are the adults most likely to change it." Truer words were never spoken.

At the end of the presentation he commented that he had written a secret in the books. I knew he added a secret to each of the books he has compiled from PostSecret cards, but I thought he was referring to the books they were selling that evening. Then he clarified that it was in the one he had given away. To me.

I opened it up and he came over and handed me the microphone and asked me to read it aloud, which I did. "The world needs to hear your voice," was what it said. My friend, Andrea, who was there with her friend, Steve, told me later that they thought it perfect that I got that message.

It was an amazing evening and if you get a chance to see Frank Warren, do. The PostSecret project is very interesting in and of it self. Even those not familiar with it will enjoy his engaging presentation.

Needless to say, I had an extra special evening with the book and its message. Greg is always wanting front row seats to concerts and I must say I saw the advantage of that in this situation.

After the presentation, people were invited to share secrets with the audience. It was astonishing the things people were willing to tell to this group of strangers with whom they had shared the evening.

Frank Warren graciously signed books and posed for photographs afterwards. He was very kind, spending some time with everyone who went through the line. I was so grateful to get to be there.

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