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Tell the Story You've Always Dreamed of Telling

I write compelling memoirs for people who have faced and overcome great challenges in their lives, and who want to pass on what they’ve learned to family, friends, and a much wider audience.
As a longtime New York editor and memoir specialist, I’m adept at identifying the “diamond in the rough” in your story—its true potential and power, which may not be wholly apparent to you.

I recently worked with Dean Stoecker, who faced entrepreneurial failure many times and nearly gave up before founding Alteryx, a multi-billion-dollar data analytics company. He wanted to write a book to help others master the emotional challenges that can stand in the way of success.

Masterpiece is a book Al Desetta ghostwrote for a major C.E.O.
“I couldn’t have told my story without Al’s immense help. He’s a great listener who can query you when he believes you need to go deeper. Working with him was a rewarding and cathartic experience.”
Dean Stoecker
Co-Founder and Executive Chairman, Alteryx, Inc.
Masterpiece: The Emotional Journey to Creating Anything Great
Another recent client was Sam Sutton, who grew up poor in a house with no central heat or hot water, and went on to become the personal valet to Presidents Bill Clinton, G.W. Bush, and Barack Obama, a virtual member of the First Family.

“It was always my dream to write my memoir. Al Desetta took my story into his most capable hands and brought it to life. I thank him for his service on this project.”
Samuel Sutton, Jr., CSCM, U.S. Navy (Ret.)
Born to Serve: The Trailblazing Life of Sam Sutton,
Valet to Three Presidents
Born to Serve is a book Al Desetta ghostwrote for a former Presidential Valet.
They Call Me "Doctor Death" is a book Al Desetta ghostwrote for a hospice physician.
I also recently worked with Dr. Ken Pettit, who watched both his father and best friend die painful deaths because they were treated too aggressively in their final days. He wanted to promote the message that our medical system’s fear of mortality and blind faith in technology rob the terminally ill of the dignity of a “good death.” 
“Al understood the goal of my book as if he was reading my mind. He had the patience of a saint and motivated me to keep my eyes on the prize. If you’re contemplating writing a book, Al is your guy.” 

Dr. Ken Pettit

They Call Me “Doctor Death”

How Our Medical System Robs the Terminally Ill 

of Comfort, Time, and Dignity

If you want to write a memoir but don’t have the time or skill, that’s where I come in. I’ll be doing the heavy lifting of crafting the information you provide into a high-quality book, true to your voice and ideas. 

A Master of My Craft

Al Desetta, Memoir Ghostwriter
Al Desetta with teen writer Lenny Jones.
I began my career as a writing teacher and editor at Youth Communication in New York City, a nationally-recognized writing program for teens. It was founded in 1980 by Keith Hefner, who won a MacArthur Award for his contributions to young adult publishing.
For 15 years I worked with young people from a wide range of racial, ethnic, and economic backgrounds—teens who were former gang members and kids who were bound for the Ivy League, incarcerated teens and young people in foster care.

Many had faced significant trauma in their lives. This was a great training ground for me, as I learned the art of guiding them through the process of crafting powerful accounts of the challenges they faced and overcame. Their essays were published by Persea Books, a New York literary publisher, in an anthology called The Heart Knows Something Different: Teenage Voices from the Foster Care System.

My book projects at Youth Communication have received numerous awards, as well as praise from Hillary Clinton, Jonathan Kozol, Marian Wright Edelman, and Martin Seligman, and have been profiled by The New York Times, The Daily News, New York Newsday, Ms. Magazine, and NPR’s All Things Considered.  

In 1990 I was awarded a Charles H. Revson Fellowship at Columbia University, where I spent a year studying memoir in the graduate writing program.  
The Heart Knows Something Different is a book of essays edited by Al Desetta.
Out With It is a book by teens edited by Al Desetta.
Things Get Hectic is a collection  of personal essays edited by Al Desetta.
The Courage to Be Yourself is a book of essays edited by Al Desetta.

The Heart Knows Something Different is a well-written account of the challenges facing youth in the foster care system. It touched the hearts of all who read it.”

      Hillary Clinton   

“These are wise and eloquent authors who can teach us much about caring for ‘system’ children and all children.”

Marian Wright Edelman

Founder and President Emerita

Children’s Defense Fund

"Longing, terror, honesty, and eloquence combine to seize the reader’s heart and mind.” 

Jonathan Kozol

National Book Award Winner

Author, Savage Inequalities and Amazing Grace

“Al Desetta has a talent for going to the heart of a writer's story.”

Karen Braziller

Editorial Director

Persea Books, New York

“Al is a good listener and very skillful at helping writers translate their ideas into the words that best express them.”

Keith Hefner

Founder, Youth Communication

MacArthur "Genius Award" Winner


A Transformative and Rewarding Process 

Capturing your life on paper is a transformative, once-in-a-lifetime experience. Clients tell me over and over again how rewarding and cathartic it was to finally put their struggles and triumphs into narrative form. 

For Wanda Broach-Butts, writing a memoir was a deeply challenging experience. She and her husband Ted took in a foster child whose history of severe trauma was not disclosed by the agency. The result was an unfathomable tragedy and a courtroom confrontation with the system that failed her. 


Wanda didn’t want to write this memoir—the idea was quite daunting. Rather, she had to write it. I guided her through the process of examining her profound loss and deep faith, interviewing a number of family members to create a vivid portrait of her journey. 
The Ice Underneath is a memoir ghostwritten by Al Desetta.
"In Al Desetta, I found a friend, an inspiration, and a pillar of support. His advice and expertise kept me on course in completing my book."
Dr. Wanda Broach-Butts
The Ice Underneath:
My Passage through Loss and Faith

Minimal Time Commitment 

You may be saying to yourself: Sounds good, but I just don’t have the time.
No worries. I’m used to accommodating the packed schedules of CEOs, entrepreneurs, doctors, professors, and other professionals. I’ve made the ghostwriting process simple and streamlined for you. 
I’ll spend the first month interviewing you by phone in an efficient and focused way. This will require no more than five hours of your time each week. 
These interviews will provide the raw material for your memoir. Through them I will get to know your story and your voice. All you have to do is show up and talk, and I’ll handle the rest.  
Once this stage of interviewing is finished, the writing will begin. I'll send you draft chapters as I complete them to get your feedback on content, voice, and writing style. Ghostwriting is a collaborative, creative, back and forth process, but throughout much of this process I will be absorbed in the writing and may not need to speak with you at all. 
When working with Dr. Cecily Wang, I was highly flexible in accommodating her availability. Dr. Wang travels frequently on international missions with Doctors Without Borders and other relief groups, where she has been stretched to her emotional limits, witnessing the best and worst in human nature. For her memoir, I interviewed her late at night, early in the morning, and in various time zones.
No Crying in the Operating Room is a memoir written by Al Desetta.
“When I was feeling lost and struggling to get the words out, Al had a way of understanding and capturing my experiences that felt true to me. I couldn't have finished my memoir without him.”
Dr. Cecily Wang
No Crying in the Operating Room:
My Life as an International Relief Doctor,
from Haiti, to South Sudan, to the Syrian Civil War

A Published Book in 12 Months

My job isn’t done until you have a finished book in your hands.

When the writing is completed, I will help you select a quality publisher, advise you on the interior and exterior design of your book, and write the jacket copy. 

Most of my authors self-publish, but I have also helped authors publish with traditional royalty houses. I will help you determine which choice is best for you. 

If you’re looking to sell your memoir to a wider audience, I’ll connect you with my contacts in book publicity and marketing who can assist you in promoting your book. 

Many authors simply want to write a memoir for themselves and their loved ones.

Marina DiMaggio barely survived the firebombing of Japan during World War II, followed by deportation to equally ravaged Germany after the war. From these harsh and humble beginnings, she went on to become a well-known dancer in Europe and an acclaimed restaurateur in California. But she had never talked about that difficult past with her family. In her 80s, she decided the time had come to tell that story. 
A memoir by Marina DiMaggio

Many thanks to Al Desetta. Now my children and grandchildren will know the full story of my life.” 

Marina DiMaggio


My Journey through Three Cultures

Hire Me

Hire a Writer, not a Company

If you’re in the market for hiring a ghostwriter, you’ll find a lot of companies offering quick turnaround times. They limit the number of interviews to 10 or 12, when you need at least 40 to get the raw material for a memoir.  They then have a team of writers cobble your memoir together. No revisions. No feedback. 

When you hire me, you hire a writer, not a team to stitch together a Frankenstein’s monster of a memoir under the pressure of a short deadline. When you hire me, you get quality, craftsmanship, and personalized attention.

The cost of your book depends on the size, subject matter, and timeline. I charge market rates for a ghostwriter of my experience and skill, but I am often able to be flexible in the price to meet your particular budget.

For me, this is not just a job. I derive great pleasure in helping people finally complete the books they’ve always wanted to write.  And I look forward to providing you with that priceless, once-in-a-lifetime experience.
Contact Me

Al Desetta
Memoir Ghostwriter


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A Wide Range of Authors

A Memoir by Iran Fahmy
A memoir by Cynthia Hammer
A memoir by Lisa Nasseff
They Broke the Law--You Be the Judge is a book edited by Al Desetta.
A memoir by Brad Mahone
Fast Track Up the Corporate Ladder is a business book ghostwritten by Al Desetta.
A memoir by Irene Masiello
Wisdom at the Top is a business book edited by Al Desetta.
A memoir by Carmelo Ciro
Transforming Sexual Narratives is a book edited by Al Desetta.
Bentonville Before Walmart is a memoir edited by Al Desetta.
A memoir by Thomas Dixon
A memoir by Vince Weber

"When the rough manuscript of my memoir went to Mr. Desetta, he reorganized it in a way that was breathtaking. I can't say enough about Al’s talent, work ethic, and ability to make a manuscript shine."

Irene Masiello

Paradise Costs: A Victim’s Daughter Fights Back

Against Elder Abuse

“If you're looking to fulfill your dream of writing a book, look no further than Al. His integrity, expertise, and talent are unmatched. His hard work brought my memoir to life. I could not have done it without him."

Lisa Nasseff 

Flagrantly Anorexic: A Memoir and Call to Action

"Al was a great asset in developing my memoir. His impressive skills turned my rough draft into a compelling story."

Brad Mahone

Arrows From the Grave: A Memoir of Disinheritance 

“Al Desetta did a masterful job of reworking the original manuscript. His guidance and encouragement are truly appreciated.”


Thomas A. Jacobs, J.D.

They Broke the Law—You Be the Judge:

True Cases of Teen Crime

Awards and Reviews

ForeWord Magazine Book of the Year Finalist (twice)


Distinguished Achievement Award from the Association of Educational Publishers


New York Public Library Books for the Teenage Selection (twice)


 Honorable Mention, 1996 Anna Quindlen Award for Excellence in Journalism,

Child Welfare League of America


Special Citation for Meritorious Journalism, Casey Journalism Center for Children and Families


Outstanding Achievement in Parenting Materials, the Parent’s Guide to Children’s Media


ALA/YALSA “Quick Pick” (twice)


Parent Council Selection


Parent’s Choice Award

The Heart Knows Something Different (Persea Books)

“Mandatory reading for child welfare staff at all levels, and for anyone who wants to understand the loss, grief, and triumph of young people in foster care.”


David Liederman, Executive Director

Child Welfare League of America, 1984-99

“A testimony to the spirit and relentless courage of young people who have persevered in the face of adversity. I rejoice with the children in their triumph.”

E.P. Jones

Author, Where is Home?

Living Through Foster Care

“A book of hopefulness that adults intending to improve foster care and adoption will need to read and understand. These are very special voices. One can only hope we are prepared to listen and respond to their call.”


Robert Little

Former foster child and

Commissioner, New York City

Child Welfare Administration, 1990-96

“A perfect 10. It’s way more than I expected it to be. Good read for anybody who is troubled or who has been troubled in their younger years, good for those who interact with foster youth, or for anybody interested. This book paints a candid picture of reality and just that. This one stands out from the others in its class.”


Amazon Review

“This book takes you inside the world of foster care, a place that, you find out quickly, isn't somewhere you want to be. The voices of the children themselves tell the stories in this collection of essays. We see things as they actually are: siblings are split up and sometimes never reunited, children’s loyalties are torn between abusive or neglectful parents and ‘the system,’ kids age out and are left to a world they know nothing about, without a family to guide them. It is all here. It is all true. I challenge you to read it and not have it make you think long and hard about the way ‘the system’ works and how it affects the kids.”


Amazon Review

The Struggle to Be Strong (Free Spirit Publishing)

“This slim but mighty volume is a beacon of hope and good sense for young people and their counselors.”

Martin E.P. Seligman, Ph.D.

Author, Learned Optimism and The Optimistic Child

“Moving…teens’ own words stress the importance of resilience.”


Marian Wright Edelman

Founder and President Emerita

Children’s Defense Fund

“Steeped in the science of resiliency, this fine work offers practical strategies for

helping teens beat the odds. I recommend it highly.”


Peter L. Benson, Ph.D.

Search Institute

“Enduringly important.”

Midwest Book Review

“Engaging, empowering testimony to today’s teens struggling to make something of themselves.”

Voice of Youth Advocates

Things Get Hectic: Teens Write About the Violence That Surrounds Them (Simon & Schuster)

“An intensely moving collection by young people who have lived through violence and tell their stories with enormous sensitivity and unsparing candor.”


Jonathan Kozol

     National Book Award Winner

Author, Savage Inequalities and Amazing Grace


“A startling series of testimonials about urban violence…Unheard voices crying for a hearing.”


Kirkus Reviews

They Broke the Law, You Be the Judge: True Cases of Teen Crime (Free Spirit Publishing)

“An excellent introduction to how juvenile justice works…a great resource for classroom and group discussions.”




“A refreshing and completely unique resource, and a great tool for teaching about guilt and mercy.”




“An unusual and thought-provoking treatment.”


School Library Journal

Out With It: Gay and Straight Teens Write About Homosexuality  (Youth Communication)

“A powerful and wonderfully evocative collection of writings by teens about homosexual identity, and the struggle for understanding, friendship, love, and community.”


Greg Tewksbury

School Voices

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