Write the Memoir You've Always

Dreamed of Writing

You've always wanted to write a book about your life.

Let me help you tell that story with a professionally written memoir. 

Leave behind a powerful legacy for family and friends.

I'm Al Desetta, a full-time memoir ghostwriter. I’ve written memoirs for CEOs, entrepreneurs, doctors, academics, and just about anyone who wants to get their life story told for family, friends, and colleagues. What these books have in common is that I've helped their authors go to the heart of what they’ve learned in life, crafting powerful stories about their experiences and accomplishments.

 

Hemingway once wrote: “Any man’s life, told truly, is a novel.” I'd like to change that quote a bit to say that any person’s life, told truly, is a memoir. You simply need a good writer to help you along the path. 

 
A memoir can take many forms. Growing up in a lost era, an account of eccentric family life that holds universal lessons for all, coming to terms with a difficult past, service to country in peace and war, or the story of career triumph, such as an adopted boy working in his Los Altos, California garage who revolutionizes the computer industry. And let’s not forget the good old-fashioned love story.
A memoir allows readers to step into your shoes. It records the ups and downs of a life lived to the fullest. It passes on your hard-earned wisdom, to help others and preserve your legacy.
 
Hire me to ghostwrite your memoir and together we'll create a rich, engrossing tale of survival and triumph. We'll craft a story of heartache and laughter that your friends and family will cherish.
With my vast experience, I'm an expert at finding the "diamond in the rough" in your material, the most compelling parts of your life that will resonate deeply with readers. I’ll help you capture your story’s true power and beauty to create an indelible memoir that your readers won't forget. And in the process, you'll not only gain a greater understanding of your past but will leave behind something of lasting value.

Praise for My Work 

I’ve written and edited dozens of memoirs, but here are a few recent projects.
Wanda Broach-Butts and her husband Ted took in a foster child whose history of trauma was not fully disclosed by the agency. An unfathomable tragedy ensued, throwing Wanda into an existential crisis of faith, prompting deep reflection into her family's complex legacy of loss and redemption.
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“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, RN, M.H.A.

Author, The Ice Underneath:

My Passage through Loss and Faith

Sam Sutton grew up poor in Kinston, N.C., joined the Navy, rose in the ranks, and became valet to Presidents Bill Clinton, G.W. Bush, and Barack Obama, a high-pressured job that made him a virtual member of the First Family and a target for those seeking access to the world's most powerful leader.

“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.)

Author, Born to Serve:

The Trailblazing Life of Sam Sutton,

Valet to Three Presidents

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Dr. Ken Pettit watched both his father and best friend die painful deaths because they were treated too aggressively in their final days. As a hospice physician, he wanted to expose how our medical system's fear of mortality and blind faith in technology rob the terminally ill of the dignity of a "good death."

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“Al's ability to understand the goal of my book was incredible, 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

Author, They Call Me "Doctor Death":

How Our Medical System

Robs the Terminally Ill

of Comfort, Time, and Dignity

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.

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

Marina DiMaggio

Author, Mariko/Marie/Marina:

My Journey through Three Cultures

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Lisa Nasseff was alternately blamed for her anorexia and badly mistreated by incompetent doctors. She was subjected to hypnosis therapy that brought her to the brink of suicide, prompting her to become an impassioned advocate for changing our treatment of eating disorders and reforming healthcare.

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“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

Author, Flagrantly Anorexic:

  A Memoir and Call to Action

Iran Fahmy chafed against the misogyny and intolerance of Iran’s fundamentalist Muslim population. Arriving in the U.S. in 1957, she overcame many challenges to forge a new identity. Every Thanksgiving her family offers Muslim, Baha’i, Jewish, and Christian prayers that honor their diverse backgrounds.   

"For many years I wanted to write a memoir about my childhood in Iran and my embrace of the U.S. as my new home. Al Desetta exhibited exceptional skill in developing and completing my book. I am very grateful to him."

Irandukht Fahmy

Author, A Checkerboard of Nights and Days

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Many people want to write such a memoir but never take the first step. Do it now, before it's too late. Spend a few minutes on my website to find out why I’m the right person to help you.

I also provide developmental editing services for people who have a partial or complete manuscript that needs work. For more information, click here.  

 
 
 

About Me

I began my career as a financial writer on Wall St., and then spent fifteen years as an editor and writing teacher at Youth Communication in New York City, a nationally recognized writing program for teens.
I worked with young writers 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.
Many had faced significant trauma in their lives. They had stories to tell, but needed guidance in how to tell them. This was a great training ground for me, as I learned the art of memoir in helping them craft powerful accounts of the challenges they faced and overcame. The best of their stories were published by Persea Books in The Heart Knows Something Different: Teenage Voices from the Foster Care System, with a foreword by the noted author and social critic Jonathan Kozol. My numerous book projects at Youth Communication have been praised by Hillary Clinton, Marian Wright Edelman, and Martin Seligman, and profiled by The New York Times, The Daily News, New York Newsday, Ms. Magazine, and on NPR's All Things Considered.

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 Rodham Clinton

    Former Secretary of State

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

Marian Wright Edelman

President, Children’s Defense Fund

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

 Jonathan Kozol

Author, Savage Inequalities and Amazing Grace

I started ghostwriting full-time in 2003. I earned a B.A. in English Literature from SUNY Binghamton and an M.A. in English Literature from City College of New York. I was a Charles Revson Fellow at Columbia University, where I spend a year in academic study. After working for 20 years in Manhattan as an editor, educator, and writing teacher, I now live in beautiful upstate New York.

“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

For samples of my ghostwriting, click here.  

 

How I Work with You

The ghostwriting process starts by getting to know you and your story, inside out.
 
We'll talk at great length about your life and legacy to get the “big picture” of what you want to say to readers, to identify what's most unusual and moving in your experience. This is done via phone interviewing--there is no need to live close by in order to work together.
  
From these initial discussions I'll develop a scene outline that includes a well-defined “story arc”—an extended story-line from the opening of the first chapter to the final pages of your manuscript. 
 
We'll address the challenge of what to include and what to leave out. If you've tried to write a memoir, you've probably found it's a difficult challenge. You know so much about your life that it's easy to get lost in the trees and lose sight of the big picture. A memoir has to focus on key aspects of your experience, the distilled essence of what you want to say to readers. That's where my objectivity and experience come into play. I’ll help you stay focused and not get lost in unnecessary detail. 
 
Once we hone your message, we'll finalize the book's organization and story structure. Thereafter, we'll talk on a weekly basis to write your story chapter by chapter.  We’ll develop story conflict, progressive complications, and key turning points.  We'll continue this way until the book is ready for publication.

And my work doesn't end when the writing is completed.  As part of my service I will help you select a quality publisher, advise you on the interior and exterior design of your book, and write the jacket copy. My job isn't done until you have a finished book in your hands.

Wide-Ranging Experience

I've assisted authors in writing books that draw heavily on their personal experiences in addressing a wide range of subjects.
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"Al was a great help to me in writing my first book.  He is smart, efficient, and honest. He encouraged me to meet deadlines and worked with me to organize my thoughts and experiences in an effective manner. He's a pleasure to work with and I highly recommend him to other authors."  

Vince Weber

Author, From Street Kid to CEO:

Seven Rules for Success in Life

“When the rough manuscript of my memoir went to Mr. Desetta, he reorganized it in a way that was breathtaking. I could never say enough about Al’s talent, work ethic, and ability to make a manuscript shine.”

Irene Masiello

Author, Paradise Costs:

A Victim's Daughter Fights Back Against Elder Abuse

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“With his outstanding ghostwriting and editing skills, Al Desetta was invaluable in helping me describe my climb up the corporate ladder at PepsiCo.”

Len Schutzman

Former CFO and Treasurer, PepsiCo

Author, Fast Track Up the Corporate Ladder

“Al was a great asset in the development of my memoir. His impressive skills turned it into a compelling story.”

Brad Mahone

Author, Arrows from the Grave:

A Memoir of Disinheritance

“Al did a magnificent job with my memoir. He also helped me with the cover design, the interior layout, and finding a reputable publisher. Whatever success my book has will be due to Mr. Desetta’s editorial expertise and guidance.”

 

Carmelo Ciro

Author, The Eagle’s Nest:

Once Upon a Time in Sicily

“I was fortunate to have found Al Desetta to work on my memoir. He made my book more engaging, the best it could be. I wish I had started using him much sooner.”

Dr. Michael Knott, M.D. 

Author, Bentonville Before Walmart

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“Al was a great resource for me. He was extremely effective in taking my content and turning it into highly engaging chapters. He was easy to work with and I highly recommend him.”

 

Scott Rosen, CEO, The Rosen Group

Author, Wisdom at the Top:

Lessons on Leadership

and Life from 35 CEOs

A Streamlined Process

Many people want to write a memoir but don’t think they have the time. That’s where I come in. I’ll be doing the heavy lifting of crafting the information you provide into a quality book. 
In many ways I’ve simplified the process for you. Through exercises and questionnaires that I’ll ask you to complete, I’ll be able to understand the crucial details of your story at the start. After that, I require that you make yourself available for one to two hours of interviewing each week by phone. I’ll send you a list of questions and ideas to prompt you. Through this process you’ll discover memories you thought were forgotten but that now enrich your story.
Ghostwriting is a collaborative, creative, back and forth process. I'll write one chapter at a time and send these chapters to you on a regular basis. I'll ask for constructive feedback on content, voice, and writing style. Together, we'll create dramatic scenes and scene sequences, compelling story-lines, gripping conflict, and other elements critical to creating a great memoir. 
 
By helping you write your book I'll preserve your past for your family, friends, and loved ones. And in the process, you'll experience one of the most transformative and fulfilling things you'll ever do. Clients tell me over and over again how rewarding it was to tell their stories. And I derive great pleasure from helping people finally complete the books they've always wanted to write.
 
Simple Pricing
 
My ghostwriting price includes research, interviewing, transcription, story design, writing, editing, and proofreading, as well as guiding you in selecting the best publishing options and choosing the best cover and interior design for your book. I do all this for one simple flat rate.
 
My price is $40,000.
 
Your memoir will be completed and ready for publication in eight months, so the total fee would be paid in eight monthly installments of $5,000 on the first of each month. There is no large down payment required. Nor do I ask for a portion of your royalties, as many ghostwriters do.
 
If you seek to write a story about your life that moves, entertains, and informs people, then don't wait: call me right now.
 
Contact Me
Are you ready to write an outstanding memoir? Are you eager to leave behind a compelling record of your accomplishments? Are you ready to act now, before it's too late? 
If the answer is yes, call me right now and let's talk about your book. There's no commitment, and we can get to know one another while you tell me about your project. I work with just two clients a year and now have an opening for one new one in September 2021. I hope it's you.
 
So give me a call or, if you prefer, use the contact form. 
Al Desetta
Memoir Ghostwriter
17 Pine Grove St.
Woodstock, NY 12498 
al@aldesetta.com
 
(845) 679-7086

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Remember, your life story is important.  Time swiftly passes by.  Don’t put it off until it’s too late.  Go for it—you’ll be glad you did.