Author Matthew Quick Visits Drexel
Photos by Vishal Kasliwal
November 20, 2010 — Matthew Quick, author of The Silver Linings Playbook, visited Drexel University as part of the Freshmen Reading Program on October 26, 2010. As the University’s special guest, Quick’s visit to Drexel was a busy day that included a lecture, question and answer session in the Main Auditorium, a book-signing and a special dinner with the English and Philosophy Department, as well as an intimate Master Class.
Visiting Author Lecture
by Maia Livengood
On Tuesday morning, Main Auditorium quickly filled with students and faculty, murmuring in excitement and anticipation of visiting author, Matthew Quick’s, address—a fitting reception given the speaker’s high level of charisma and presence. Taking the stage, Quick began by introducing what he believes to be the most important factor of success: energy. Not unlike the way a musician strings a common thread through a set, Quick used “energy” as a uniting concept to explain his path to success.
Quick had known even in high school that his dream was to pursue a career as a fiction writer, but also understood that those who were concerned for his well-being would not likely be receptive to the idea.
“My red notebook’s short stories and poems didn’t exactly fall in line with my family’s history of pragmatic, protestant bankers,” Quick chuckled.
And though he made light of the negative reactions he received from friends, family, and even his guidance counselor, Quick was sure to note the serious contradiction from the common childhood message, You can be anything you want to be. He was reminded of his future student loan repayment, and was told that writing “is a hobby.”
Discouraged, Quick decided to pursue a degree as an English teacher—which, he thought, would allow him time to travel and write. He attended LaSalle University, and loved college, truly finding his authentic self through connections with professors, involvement in literary organizations, and by forming friendships with those of similar interests.
Ten years later, however, Quick found himself despondent and depressed. He had a largely successful career as a teacher at Haddonfield High School; he was tenured, coached sports, and led an impressive variety of educational trips. But at 30, he felt trapped.
While encouraging his high school students to work towards their professional dreams, he was regretfully ignoring his own.
“I felt like a hypocrite,” he said.
His wife, whom he had first met as a freshman at LaSalle, noticed the change in his demeanor, and soon became committed to a new path that would allow Quick time to write full-time. The idea she proposed seemed, at first, radical. Quick challenged her suggestion to leave his job, citing the impracticality, their bills, and the like.
His wife countered, “What if I could make all those illusions go away?”
Together, they developed a plan: they would sell their house, backpack through South Africa for a period of personal and artistic development, and relocate to their in-laws’ house upon their return. There, Quick would spend three years working on his MFA and on a novel—which would later become The Silver Linings Playbook.
Again, the couple was met with intense opposition to their new direction in life. Quick’s father warned: “I will not pay your dental!” But despite the warnings and attempts at dissuasion, they packed their bags.
“And in Africa, with nothing but the clothes on our back, we fell in love all over again,” beamed Quick.
Back stateside months later, rejuvenated and in his in-laws’ basement, Quick worked tirelessly, spending seven days per week and ten hours per day writing. He attended Goddard College, where he was continually stimulated and inspired by the faculty and students. But once more, upon graduation, Quick was told to “be realistic” by the advisors and faculty who had encouraged and mentored him—forcing him to face the same conflicting messages he was given in high school, and then again at LaSalle.
Instead of caving to a conventional or “safe” path, Quick chose to double his efforts: he decided to cold-pitch the novel he had recently completed (Playbook) to 140 agents. And after a painful 70 rejections, he finally received “the call.”
Of his experience, Quick said “There are talented writers who should be published, but they’re not. Many talented writers simply don’t have the energy. If you’re a fiction writer, you’ll keep writing—no matter what. If you need a lot of motivation to write, maybe it’s not the thing for you. My need to write will trump everything else. Always.”
And that worldview couldn’t be more apparent in his novel; Playbook deals with the changed life philosophy of a man who is willing to adapt and improve to find a better life, whatever it takes.
“Energy says a lot about a person. I can tell within 30 seconds of meeting a writer whether or not they’ll be successful. Energy reveals attitude, conduct, and perspective.”
The Master Class
by Furrah Qureshi
As part of Drexel University’s Freshmen Reading Program, students had the option of participating in a writing contest to compete for spots in a Master Class with visiting author, Matthew Quick. Twenty-three students were chosen to attend, and the top three had the opportunity to have their work critiqued by Quick himself.
The first-year students gathered around a table with Quick at the head. He broke the ice quickly and effectively, introducing himself to the students simply as “Q.” The class began with a discussion of tone and perspective. Quick emphasized the benefits of first-person narratives, as the students regularly interjected comments and questions.
Quick’s knack for leading the Master Class can be explained by his scholastic nature.
“Many, many kind published authors have shared tips—about the craft and business—with me over the years,” he said. “I love paying it forward and sharing what I know with young authors. Also, writers tend to get jaded the further along they travel in the publishing world. I enjoy the excitement most young authors have for writing fiction; it's healthy to be around enthusiasm.”
At home with the role of teacher, Quick discussed literary conventions with the students. He offered his seasoned advice on publishing and the life and times of a writer in the modern world.
“Strive to be authentically you on the page,” he advised. “Don't try to write like anyone else. Don't try to align yourself with this or that literary philosophy or clique, this or that school of thought. Also, learn how to be a professional, and then act like one. And be nice to people, because kindness matters—pretty much always.”
Students in the Master Class came from a variety of majors. The College of Arts and Sciences’ emphasis on the balance between both the sciences and the arts in education aligned well with Quick’s maxim to “be open to all experiences.”
Quick reflected on his own collegiate days and his path after graduation.
“I ended up working in a neural health lock-down unit, never knowing that twelve years later I would publish my first novel about a man who leaves a mental health facility. You never know what will inspire you to write, nor when,” he said.
Through the effective planning of Drs. Fred Siegel and Scott Warnock in the Department of English and Philosophy, and the dedication and enthusiasm of Matthew Quick, young writers at the Master Class were able to enjoy personalized attention from a contemporary author. While the question and answer session with Quick in the Main Auditorium was a pleasantly crowded, buzzing event, the Master Class was a quieter, more intimate environment, ideal for discussion.
Finally, Quick’s advice for students was simple, “Read widely. Write a lot.”
For more information about the Freshman Reading Program, please visit http://www.drexel.edu/coas/news/readingProgram/, or contact Scott Warnock, firstname.lastname@example.org.