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A bartender struggling for years as an unpublished writer helps a combat veteran finish a story bound for success and receives an unexpected gift in return.
Thomas Slattery is a war horse. Hammering away at his keyboard for nearly forty years, trying to make his mark as a novelist. To date, no publication,no real success. Working as a bartender in Chicago all those years, married and divorced, now living with his mom in his childhood home in Jefferson Park. But always writing. Along the way, he has mentored numerous successful writers through a writer’s group he started. Jeff, an Iraq war veteran and newer writer, has attracted Thomas’ mentoring eye.
Jeff is living on the margins, scraping by with temp jobs and living in an SRO, isolating himself as he, too, chases his dreams of professional writing. He is wrestling with Ghostboy, a story that an influential publisher wants to publish as part of a star making anthology. But a deadline looms and he can’t bear to finish the story. He wrote Ghostboy in a fever pitch, after the
suicide of his army buddy Sparks. Jeff won’t process Sparks’ death, or his own pain or anything else. He seems destined to be forever trapped inside his own pain.
Jeff pins his hope of finishing the story on his mentor Thomas. But a great personal loss on Thanksgiving night shakes Thomas to his core. Thomas abandons Jeff and Ghostboy. He gives up writing and mentoring and lashes out
at every thread of his life as ‘the world’s least successful writer.’ The two men clash, Jeff having lost his writing voice to numbness and pain, Thomas enraged by his failure in the face of the wild success of those he mentored.
Every artist must discover their true why. Why they forsake so much to express what aches to get out. These two writers embark on a new journey, to discover their real and true why, and the actual meaning of success. The answers for the lonely writer, they find, just may lie in the outstretched hand of a friend.
Perseverance, fellowship and sacrifice are words that have often kept me afloat. Words I have shared with hundreds of colleagues in the arts for the last thirty years. And three words that embody this journey that takes place over one wintry week in Chicago by a pair of unknown writers.
Ghostwriter is my love letter to Chicago’s artists, her mentors and students, the honor of teaching. I have memories seared into my mind as a young actor, challenged and exhilarated by one teacher who put endless energy into our time together. She lit a path for me to follow and find a deeper truth inside of my own work. Thirty years later, we come full circle. That teacher, my mentor, is in the cast of Ghostwriter and I am thrilled to celebrate what she has given to me.
Ghostwriter is my tribute to those who have struggled with their return from war and the ache of survivor’s guilt. It’s hard to believe my college roommate went to Desert Storm nearly thirty years ago. I have long sought a special way to raise my voice in gratitude to so many brave people who have sacrificed in the endless war of my generation.
Ghostwriter is a message to my sons. The last decade has brought the arrival and departure of many special people in my life and given me great fuel to seek out and celebrate small moments of humanity, show what brings us together, how we overcome great loss and keep pushing forward. My resolve to pursue these stories is stronger than ever today as I raise three little boys within a nation that often feels covered in darkness. I share this with them to remember the need for brotherhood. And shine a light on two unknown faces inside a giant city as they forge the kind of friendship as artists that defines exactly why I want to get up in the morning and keep going.
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