SCOTT SIMON, host:
This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Scott Simon.
In Greek mythology, King Midas is given donkey ears as a punishment but he assiduously conceals them in a turban. Only his barber knows the truth and he pledges secrecy, but the secret begins to weigh on the barber so heavily that he finally digs a hole and whispers it into the ground. In 2005, people are confessing their secrets anonymously on a postcard and mailing it to a private home in Germantown, Maryland. Frank Warren began inviting people to share their secrets in November of 2004. He has since received more than 10,000 postcards. He was putting them on a Web site, PostSecret.com, but now he's compiled 300 of the most provocative admissions into a book called "PostSecret." Frank Warren joins us in our studio.
Thanks very much for being with us.
Mr. FRANK WARREN (Author, "PostSecret"): Oh, it's a pleasure to be here.
SIMON: Ten thousand. What do you think you've tapped into? Why are people so eager to do this?
Mr. WARREN: Well, it really does seem like it resonates with people for one reason or another. I'm not quite sure why. I think some people send in a postcard searching for absolution; maybe others share a secret to share a funny story. Maybe there's other motives as well. I think sometimes just the act of writing a secret on a postcard, facing it, gives you an opportunity to learn something about yourself or maybe change something about yourself. I think sometimes part of the beauty of the project comes from people who come to the site originally maybe for a voyeuristic intent. But then as they read through some of the postcards, they recognize things in their own lives that they might not have thought of before as a secret but maybe recognize as a secret after they see some of the secrets other people are sharing.
SIMON: I think it's almost, in a sense, easier to begin with some of the funny ones, but I'll stipulate. Some of these are as sensational and as touching a confession as you could hope to gain in any work of literature. Some of the funny ones, somebody wrote on a Starbucks cup that they sent as a postcard, `I give decaf to customers who are rude to me.'
Mr. WARREN: Yes, there are a few lessons to be learned by in the book, and I think that's one of them: Be kind to your servers.
SIMON: `I love to pee when I'm swimming.' It's written on a postcard, I wasn't making a confession myself. I guess we should say that.
Mr. WARREN: A lot of these also come with beautiful illustrations...
Mr. WARREN: ...drawings and pictures, so there's more to it sometimes than just the text. And sometimes, the graphic element of the card is really the most poignant part.
SIMON: Black and white prison stripes are printed on a postcard and the person who sent it to you says he's been in prison for two years because of `what I did; nine more to go.'
Mr. WARREN: Yes.
SIMON: Oh, my. Somebody has written over flowers a hand in yellow letters has written, `I wished on a dandelion for my husband to die.'
Mr. WARREN: A secret like that, who could you tell it to?
SIMON: Do you want to read a couple to us that affected you in particular?
Mr. WARREN: Sure. One that I received a few months ago, and it was typed on a card in a very small type face, reads simply, `I still haven't told my father that I have the same disease that killed my mother.' And, again, such a burden there that you can imagine the person carrying. And, hopefully, through the process of writing that on a postcard and physically releasing it, letting it go into a mailbox, I hope they're able to find some--a sense of relief or some healing.
SIMON: Some of the proceeds from this book, I gather, are going to support the National Hopeline Network.
Mr. WARREN: It's a locally based suicide prevention hotline.
SIMON: Local in Germantown, Maryland?
Mr. WARREN: I think it's based in Alexandria specifically.
SIMON: Virginia. OK.
Mr. WARREN: Yes. And it has a reach across America and it's 1-800-SUICIDE, and it's a suicide prevention hotline.
SIMON: Another one, if you could read to us.
Mr. WARREN: This is one that I like. It arrived on a three-by-six note card and it reads simply, `I'd give anything for an opportunity to show even the smallest kindness to my ex-wife.'
SIMON: Mm. Good Lord, that's stupefying, isn't it?
Mr. WARREN: It almost gives me the feeling sometimes that I'm invisible, and I'm getting these private, privileged looks into people's lives that feel comfortable sharing it.
SIMON: Yeah. Do you ever write back?
Mr. WARREN: I don't. I respect everybody's anonymity, but I do get follow-up e-mails from people telling me sometimes how sharing a secret has affected their own life or how the project has affected their life.
SIMON: What do they report sometimes?
Mr. WARREN: Well, I've got one right here. Can I read it to you?
SIMON: Yes, please.
Mr. WARREN: This one said, `Dear Frank, I've made six postcards, all with secrets that I was afraid to tell the one person I tell everything to, my boyfriend. This morning I plan to mail them, but instead, I left them on the pillow next to his head while he was sleeping. Ten minutes ago, he arrived at my office and asked me to marry him. I said yes.'
SIMON: Oh! This is such a beautiful story.
Mr. WARREN: And I receive e-mails kind of similar to that quite often, talking about changes that people have made in their own life that were started by facing their secret on a postcard and releasing it to a stranger.
SIMON: Frank Warren is the creator of Postsecret.com. He has compiled 300 secrets into a "PostSecret" book that's available now.
Mr. Warren, thanks for being with us.
Mr. WARREN: Thanks for having me, Scott.
NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by a contractor for NPR, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of NPR's programming is the audio.