The Mysterious “Q” Reveals All…

You’ve seen his comments on the Deb Ball. He seems inordinately fond of our Wednesday Deb, Alicia. Now, for the first time, Matthew Quick is stepping out from the comment thread to chat about his second book – and debut YA novel –  SORTA LIKE A ROCK STAR (Little, Brown & Co.), which hits bookstores TODAY! Matthew’s debut novel THE SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK (Sarah Crichton Books / Farrar, Straus & Giroux) was a 2009 PEN/Hemingway Award Honorable Mention and a Nancy Pearl / NPR 2009 Summer’s Best Books selection. The Weinstein Company has optioned the movie rights. TSLP has been translated into Italian, Spanish, and Chinese; it was also selected for the UK’s TV Book Club. Matthew lives in the Philadelphia area with his wife, current Wednesday Deb Alicia Bessette. Please visit his website at and don’t forget to leave a comment to be entered into giveaways for both of his books!

Here’s Matthew’s memorable shopping story:

We were tired, dehydrated, hungry, daunted, visually over-stimulated, financially stretched, weary of the people around us who seemed to be even worse off than we were, and seriously done—but we had one more person on our Christmas list and therefore could not leave the mall just yet.

“What are we going to get Kelly?” Alicia said.

I shrugged as the bag handles cut deeper into my fingers. I was gnawing on the inside of my cheek the way a wild animal will chew through its own leg when its paw is stuck in a trap.

“Christmas shopping sucks!” Alicia said and then picked up one of those fancy leather chairs they now have in the middle of the Cherry Hill Mall, raised it over her head, and smashed it against the wall.

Okay, Al didn’t really do that, but when I looked into her eyes, she had that rabid-raccoon look she gets whenever she is seriously stressed.

“Next year,” Alicia said, “we’re going to the islands. I hate holiday shopping. I can’t—”

“We’re buying that purse for Kelly,” I said and then pointed to the awesome purple, white and black number in the store window behind Alicia.

“It’ll be too expensive,” Alicia said.

“Kelly will love it, and the purchase will officially end our time in the mall. That’s a win-win,” I said, raising my hand above my head.

“Okay,” Alicia said, completing the high-five.

We went into the store and purchased the purse.

We had metaphorically gnawed through our own leg.

We were finally free.

But there was a catch—like there always is.

Right when I thought we were about to escape holiday shopping, when I could taste our freedom, the cashier said, “We’ll wrap your gift now. Just have a seat on the couch.”

“I don’t want it wrapped! Please, no! I just want to leave the mall!” I yelled, but the woman had already disappeared into the back of the store.

Damn you, mall!

Alicia began to weep.

Actually, that’s a lie, but Alicia was close to crying, I could tell, and we both just wanted to go home to solitude and maybe drink some wine.

We sat down on a nice leather couch and waited.

I was checking my e-mail on my phone and Alicia was yelling at me for checking my e-mail too much when I heard these words: “Do you like stickers?”

When I looked up there was a child sitting across from me. He was wearing a brown Yankees hat cocked sideways, gangsta-style.

I wasn’t sure how to answer.

Honestly, I didn’t want to talk to the kid or anyone.

I just wanted to be left alone.

“I was just at Build-A-Bear!” he said with a huge smile on his face. “And they gave me FREE stickers! FREE!”

It’s hard to convey with words, but the expression on the kid’s face suggested that his Build-A-Bear experience was akin to being told that you have won a billion dollars—perhaps as you tandem hang glide across the Grand Canyon with your Hollywood crush. It was clear to me that receiving stickers at Build-A-Bear was perhaps the best experience this kid had known thus far in life.

“Cool,” I said, surprising myself—smiling even.

I looked over at Alicia.  She was smiling too. It was the first smile I had seen on her face in hours.

“You want these stickers I got at Build-A-Bear?” the kid asked us and then extended his arm, offering us a rectangular sheet.

“Those are for you,” Alicia said. “We don’t want to take YOUR stickers.”

“I can get more at Build-A-Bear,” the kid said. “They’re really nice there. You should Build-A-Bear. It’s really fun!”

“Maybe we will,” Alicia said.

At this point the salesperson returned with Kelly’s fabulous purse and we said goodbye to our new friend.

The kid shook his index finger at us, said, “Build-A-Bear,” pressed his lips together, and then nodded confidently.

Alicia and I didn’t Build-A-Bear, but we left the mall smiling and talking about the impossibly nice kid in the store—how infectious his happiness was, and how easy it is to forget that almost everything can be awesome if you have the right outlook.

That little man had a totally different mall experience—a better one—and I envied his kid-like wonder; I remembered how I once loved going to the mall.

When we took the shopping bags into our apartment, we were surprised to find Mariah Carey in our living room performing, “All I Want For Christmas Is You,” backed by the Philadelphia Orchestra.

That’s a lie.

But we felt good enough for it to be true.

We had completed our shopping and were finally drinking wine.

Life was good.

We talked about that Build-A-Bear-loving kid for weeks, and he has become something of a role model.

A few months ago I returned to the Cherry Hill Mall before a TV interview; I was in search of just the right dress shirt, which was elusive. When I started chewing the inside of my cheek, I paused, smiled, and said, “Build-A-Bear.” I didn’t actually go to “Build-A-Bear,” but I stopped and thought about how being interviewed on TV is awesome and finding a new shirt could be too.

My new novel SORTA LIKE A ROCK STAR is about a teenager named Amber Appleton who is living on a school bus with her alcoholic mother, and yet—through unique acts of kindness—Amber manages to radiate hope and lift the spirit of an entire community.

She’d definitely give you stickers if she had any and you happened to look like you needed a sheet.

Her friends call her the princess of hope and I hope that you’ll pluck her off the shelf and make her come to life in your mind. And if you do, I hope you’ll feel like I did when I left that purse store last December.

Even though I hadn’t yet met the kid in the brown Yankees cap, I believed he existed when I wrote SORTA LIKE A ROCK STAR.

I hope you’ll read my new book.

I hope you’ll believe too.

Have you experienced a timely, unexpected act of kindness? Tell us about it below and you’ll be entered to win either a signed paperback copy of THE SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK or a signed hardback copy of SORTA LIKE A ROCK STAR.

19 Replies to “The Mysterious “Q” Reveals All…”

  1. Okay, so I LOVE this post and I will definitely be checking out your books – both of them. And now I think I remember that someone recently asked me to write a blog post on an unexpected act of kindness (which I’ve yet to come up with). And I think it might have been the lovely Wednesday Deb Alicia (was it?). And of course they are all around us (the acts of kindness, not necessarily the lovely Debs, although I always try to keep one or two of those around me at all times), but we forget to notice them.

    But how’s this one? I’ve just started my temporary job as a Census Worker and was telling a friend about it (the job, BUT NOT SHARING ANY CONFIDENTIAL INFORMATION. NEVER EVER EVER WILL I REVEAL THAT. SO HELP ME GOD. just in case the Feds are reading this.) Anyway, my friend piped up, “well, imagine that … here some people are expecting a dull, old government worker to come to their door and probe them for personal information and it’ll be such a chore, but instead they get EVE!” And that just made my day!

    I know I’m a former Deb and all, but can I still be entered in the drawing to win your books? Please, please, please???? I’ll give you a sticker!

  2. Great story, Q! I have long had a love-hate relationship with malls. I also wonder more each year where the Christmas shopping magic has gone. Your Build-A-Bear-Boy must have been an angel of hope – in disguise, of course. You fooled me,though. I thought you were going to return the pricey purse and buy Kelly a really classy Build-A-Bear.

  3. Matthew, you sneak! I did not realize that you’re Q!

    I took my kids to Build-a-Bear last year when my husband was on a business trip. It’s hugely expensive, but they loved it. Not just being there, but all the excitement from the day I told them they’d go, and all the loving their bears afterward.

    Lots of kindness everyday. Hmmm, what’s a good one…Three years ago, my then-six-year-old spent prize money he’d won in a music contest on heart-shaped earrings for me 🙂

  4. I have experienced an unexpected act of kindness! Just today, I just such a bad sunburn I look like a grapefruit. So at dinner I was being snappy at my younger brother cuz I wasn’t feeling well. And after We were all done eating, I just layed my head down on that table, and he brought me some no bake cookies and aloe spray! It was sooooo sweet of him even though I wasn’t being the nicest to him. 🙂

  5. Every day my son calls just to make sure all is well with his mom. Now I am not sick, disabled, unable, feeble, disoriented, old (…oh NO I’m not!), unwilling, weak, infected, misguided or in denial in any way (well maybe that’s a stretch). But still, sometime during his crazy, busy, not enough hours of a day, he dials in just to say hi and tell me what’s going on…and this mom loves her daily dose of kindness…because she knows all kindness is generated by a heart filled with love!

    The Silver Linings Playbook and Sorta Like a Rock Star…loved them both!

  6. Thanks Matt!

    A very poor boy on the Makaha side of Oahu won a brand new surfboard in a contest. When they called him up to get his new board (he had never had a new board in his life), he called up his best friend and and handed it to him, “Hey brah, this is for you.” There wasn’t a dry eye on the beach.

  7. If Matt’s post above doesn’t make you realize you must to go out and get Sorta Like A Rock Star, then I don’t know what would. You will definitely be glad you did. This is a sticker Matt is offering to us all. (We must wait until August to get the sticker from Alicia.)

  8. What a wonderful post! Unexpected acts of kindness…hmmm? Since I moved to a bigger city I don’t tend to get unexpected acts of kindness from strangers as often as when I lived in a smaller town, but they still happen. For me, if someone will just let me merge into the lane I need on the interstate then that is an unexpected act of kindness, so that happens from time to time! Closer to home they happen more frequently. My four year old son, who is often grumpy and mouthy if he doesn’t get his way, came up to me the other day and said, out of the blue “I love you mommy and I missed you today”. I was so touched I had to just give him a big hug!

  9. How very cool that your post is right on the heels of National “Pay It Forward” Day (April 29th)! I am the lucky recipient of unexpected acts of kindness all the time! Unfortunately, any courteousness shown in this day and age is unexpected – someone holding the door open for you, picking up something you’ve dropped, or just smiling and saying hello when passing.

    My 11 year old son, Trevor, does things for other people all the time – I hope he never loses that facet of his being. He brings me breakfast in bed when I’m not feeling well, buys me gifts when he’s away, and writes me and his dad notes telling me how much he loves us all the time. He came home from school not long ago and said he’d given one of his favorite mechanical pencils to a girl in his class because “she didn’t have one, and I thought she needed it more than me.” That’s just Trevor!

    I’d love to have a copy of one of your books! They both sound so very interesting! Thanks for the “unexpected act of kindness” of offering this contest!

  10. Speaking of stickers and kindness, I love that bumper sticker, “practice senseless acts of beauty and random acts of kindness.”

    And I really do lose it if I’m in the mall for too long!

  11. Thanks so much everyone for the kind words and the stories of kindness. I really enjoyed reading your responses. I love TDB and was honored to be a guest. If you like true stories of kindness, please check out our new blog Quest For Kindness. I’ll be posting another kindness essay there on Thursday. Finally, we pulled names out of a hat and have our winners. Greg and Susan have won books. Fun! You will be contacted soon and once we have your addresses, I’ll put books in the mail. I hope everyone will read and enjoy SORTA LIKE A ROCK STAR. Thanks again!

  12. Just got notification I’ve won SORTA LIKE A ROCK STAR! Thanks so much, Matthew! I cannot wait to read it! I’ll definitely let others know about it, too – sounds like a book everyone should read and learn from!

  13. Congrats, Q, on the official debut of Sorta Like A Rockstar!! Happy day!

    It’s been a few months since I’ve read SLAR but the Build-A-Bear kid anecdote brought back many of the same feelings that I experienced when reading about Amber. The world needs more stories like this one. Please, keep them coming!

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