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You've Overcome Many Challenges in Your Life and Career

Now Preserve That Legacy with a Book of Lasting Value

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 

Tell the Story You've Always Dreamed of Telling

I specialize in writing compelling memoirs for people who have faced and overcome great challenges in their lives and careers, and who want to pass on what they’ve learned and accomplished

to family, friends, and a much wider audience.

Maybe you’ve founded a thriving business after many setbacks. Or you’ve risen to the top in a demanding profession. Or you’ve had to deal with the aftermath of a difficult crisis or childhood.  

Or maybe you’ve raised a large and loving family, but they don't know much about their history.

Whatever your story is, I will help you express it in a way that will engage, move, and inform your readers, true to your voice and ideas.  In the process, you will come to understand and reframe aspects of your life in new and cathartic ways.  

Unlike faceless ghostwriting companies that churn out formulaic books, I bring out the very best in what you have to say. As a longtime New York editor and memoir specialist, I’m adept at identifying the “diamond in the rough” in your story—its unique potential and power, which may not be wholly apparent to you.

Don't leave that story untold, your book unwritten.  Time swiftly passes by.  "Maybe next month" becomes "maybe next year" and then "maybe next lifetime."  Contact me today about making your dream come true.

Masterpiece is a memoir written by Al Desetta, memoir ghostwriter, for a major C.E.O.

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.

“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 memoir written by Al Desetta, memoir ghostwriter, for a former Presidential Valet.
They Call Me "Doctor Death" is a memoir written by Al Desetta, memoir ghostwriter.

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. 

I know how to craft a compelling story. We’ll identify crucial biographical details and themes, and express them in a structure that brings your story to life. Who are the ten most important people in your memoir? What are the major dramatic moments and turning points? Where does your story begin and end? What universal lessons are at the core of your memoir? With my deep experience, I'll help you shape your story so it reads like a novel.

Personalized, one-on-one attention. I write one book at a time, giving you my full attention. Unlike ghostwriting companies, which operate on volume and speed, I don't put you on a production line or farm out the work overseas. I don't cut corners by setting a formulaic limit on interviews and revisionsdon't make exaggerated promises that can't be kept. I personally hand craft your book to do full justice to your story.

A collaborative and creative process. During the writing process, I'll present you with a chapter at a time for your feedback on content, voice, and writing style. Ghostwriting is a collaborative, creative, back-and-forth process. You’re involved with that process at every step of the way.

Why Hire Me?

I'm a memoir specialist. Because of my deep experience in the genre dating back years, I'm the memoir expert you want to hire. I’ll help you identify the story only you can tell, as unique to you as your fingerprints. Through exercises and interviewing, I’ll identify the most compelling aspects of your experience, much of which may not be apparent to you. My ability to see your life objectively helps me bring it to life on the page

I'm deeply experienced in accommodating busy schedules. I've developed a streamlined approach to accommodate busy professionals. Working with me requires no more than a few hours of your time each week. I'm flexible in scheduling interviews, and when I'm deeply involved in the writing I may not need to speak with you at all. 

Careful guidance through the publication process. I guide you through the self-publication process, including selecting a quality publisher, assisting you in cover design, writing jacket copy, and giving advice on the interior design. (I can also assist you with pursuing traditional royalty publishing if that’s your goal.)

Help with promoting and marketing your memoir. I will connect you with my contacts in book publicity and social media marketing who can assist you in promoting your memoir through website development, book launches, podcasts, and general outreach to your audience. Beware of anyone who promises you a bestseller. What I can promise you is that I will write a first-rate book that will sell, if you put the work into it.

How I Learned My Craft as a Memoir Specialist

Al Desetta learned memoir writing by working with teenagers.

I learned my craft as a writing teacher and editor at Youth Communication, a nationally-recognized teen writing program in New York City.


For 15 years I worked with young people from a wide range of racial, ethnic, and economic backgrounds—former gang members, kids bound for the Ivy League, incarcerated teens, and young people in foster care. Most had faced significant challenges in their lives.

Under my guidance, they wrote stories about overcoming those challenges that we then published in magazines and books for young adults. I came to know the genre of personal writing intimately, learning the tools that I use today in writing book-length memoirs for adults. I had to deal with sensitive and difficult material, and shape it persuasively for an audience. I learned when to push on certain topics and when not to. I learned how to use scenes, dialogue, and conflict to grip a reader, and how to draw out material from young writers that touched on universal themes that their peers--many of them reluctant readers--would find deeply engaging. (Their stories were published by Persea Books, a New York literary publisher, in The Heart Knows Something Different: Teenage Voices from the Foster Care System.)

Most important of all, I learned how to get to know someone's experience as thoroughly as I could, and help them express it in a way that was unique to them. Together, we made meaning from the challenging and often traumatic events in their lives, always with the goal of helping others. Thanks to this great foundation, for more than 20 years I've been helping adult authors do the same.

About me

My book projects at Youth Communication received numerous awards, and were profiled by The New York Times, The Daily News, New York Newsday, Ms. Magazine,
and NPR’s All Things Considered

“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 a well-written book. 

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. 

"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.  

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, memoir ghostwriter.

“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 or Less

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, written by Al Desetta, memoir ghostwriter.

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

For Personalized Attention, 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. Yet they limit the number of interviews and revisions (unless you pay more). They have a team of faceless writers cobble your memoir together under the pressure of a short deadline. They promise you a bestseller when no one can predict that (unless you’re a celebrity or a household name). 

When you hire me, you hire a writer, not someone who works from a formula. A formulaic approach doesn't produce a quality book. When you hire me, you get quality, craftsmanship, honesty, and personalized attention. Your story deserves it. 


I charge market rates for a ghostwriter of my experience and skill, but I am also flexible in meeting your particular budget. Your book's size and timeline are also a factor in pricing. Contact me for more information.


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



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A Long Track Record of Satisfied Authors

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

"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

“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

Fast Track Up the Corporate Ladder

"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

    From Street Kid to CEO: Seven Rules for

          Success in Life

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, 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

The Heart Knows Something Different is a book of personal essays edited by Al Desetta, memoir ghostwriter.

      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

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.”

“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

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

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

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