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Author Matthew Quick Comes Home

The 1992 graduate of Collingswood High School returned to his alma mater to talk about the literary life.

Philly fans love their Iggles, showing fierce loyalty to their hometown heroes. 

Matthew Quick fans apparently feel the same way about the local boy made good. 

About 300 people filled the lower level of the  auditorium Monday evening to welcome home Quick, a 1992 graduate of the school, who grew up in neighboring Oaklyn. 

Many of them were teenagers clutching copies of Quick's newest release, the young-adult novel Boy 21. (A video trailer for the book stars Collingswood senior Chris Michael. Click on the link to the right to view the trailer.)

But, the question on a fair number of people's minds was: What's Bradley Cooper really like in person? 

Quick's first novel, The Siliver Linings Playbook, published in 2008, is coming to the big screen this Thanksgiving, in a movie starring Cooper, Robert DeNiro and Jennifer Lawrence.

To get this out of the way: said the first time he meet Cooper on the film set, the Hollywood heartthrob was in character, wearing a plastic trash bag. (Cooper plays the novel's mentally fragile protagonist, Pat Peoples, a diehard Philadelphia Eagles fan.)

Still, "I just felt very unsexy standing next to People's 'Sexiest Man Alive,' " Quick said with a laugh. He said Cooper, also a Philly area native, was very down to earth, and had nice things to say about book. 

Quick, wearing a black shirt and jeans, started Monday evening talking about the strong local roots that allowed him to grow into a successful novelist. 

In high school, Quick said, "I didn't stand out. I wasn't picked to do great things. I was pretty average."

But, he said, "there was something inside of me that felt like maybe I was better than that."

Quick's love of literature, combined with the love he received from his grandfather, eventually pushed him to do something more. 

He said his close relationship with his grandfather, now 91, "made me feel like a rock star."

After college, he landed a gig as an English teacher at Haddonfield High School. But after eight years of teaching, Quick felt something was missing. He wanted to write, full time. 

"I turned 30, and I thought, 'I'm going to be here forever if I don't make a break.' "

He quit his job as a teacher, did some traveling abroad to clear his head, and when he returned, he and his wife moved in with her parents. (Quick's, wife, Alicia Bessette, also is a published novelist.) He spent the next three years writing The Silver Linings Playbook in his in-law's unfinished basement. 

When he finally emerged, Hollywood bought the movie rights to the book before it was even published. 

Taking the good with the bad

Responding to a question from the audience Monday about dealing with bad reviews, Quick said the manuscript for The Silver Linings Playbook was rejected 70 times before he finally found an agent who believed in the book. 

"No matter how good your work is, some people are going to tell you it's not good enough ... it's about finding the people who get your work, and get you."

Another audience member asked why the movie version of The Silver Linings Playbook was filmed in the Philly area, instead of in Collingswood, where the book is set. 

Quick, 38, said he believes the simple reason is because Pennsylvania offers better tax breaks to film productions than New Jersey does. 

Quick, who now lives in central Massachussets, said leaving South Jersey gave him a clearer perspective on such a strange and wonderful place. 

"As much as I loved living in Collingswood, and being in Philly, sometimes it's easier for me to write about his place when I'm not here."

But, Quick returns often, since, like his character Pat Peoples, he's an Eagles fanatic. Quick still has season tickets for Birds games. 

He said Monday that he's "still trying to forget" the team's disappointing performance last season. 

After the Q&A session Monday, a long line snaked out of the auditorium as people lined up for a book signing. 

Among those waiting to meet Quick was Paige Sullivan, a freshman at the high school. 

She said she really connected with Quick's other young-adult novel, Sorta Like a Rock Star, and enjoy it so much she recommended it to her mother. 

Stephen Jackson, a junior at the school and an aspiring filmmaker, said Quick's visit was inspiring. 

"We have a guy (from) right here in our town" whose book has been made into a movie, Jackson said. "And that's awesome."

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