Last week, I spoke to some awesome fellow writers at Heart of America Christian Writers Network in the Kansas City area, telling of my ghostwriting experiences and encouraging them to write what I call mini-memoirs. Two of the five books I’ve published in three years are ghostwritten memoirs: Harvest of Joy and Lost Child of Greece.

Writing a memoir for someone else is a daunting task as this genre is typically written by someone with personal knowledge of the story; not a ghostwriter to whom the story is told.

I didn’t experience homelessness or abandonment as those I wrote for did. I hadn’t lost my son or my husband in a tragic plane crash. I wasn’t adopted, abused, or destitute. I hadn’t witnessed the atrocities of a male-dominated culture in a war-torn country, nor was I widowed and hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt.

How could I write their stories? They were neither mine to tell, nor could they be written in my voice, yet their stories begged to be told. Much like Jim Nabors (Gomer Pyle) and Ken Curtis (Festus Hagen), I had to get into character to write. I had to immerse myself in the stories; studying their emails, journals, and drafts as well as the era, culture, and history in which they lived. Here’s a snippet of each book:

Harvest of Joy  –  Jan Cook Ketter is a survivor, whose simple faith and God’s faithfulness are intricately woven into the pages of this book. Jan’s is an inspirational story of triumph through tragedy and grace through struggles.

Interestingly, God’s hand was definitely in our partnership, but that’s another story! We never met until after this book was published. Jan and her husband live in the Phoenix AZ area, though her family has roots in the Midwest.

The Lost Child of Greece front cover


Lost Child of Greece: One Orphan’s Incredible Journey Home  –  Amalia “Amy” Gouvitsas Balch’s story began with her abandonment due to the shame of illegitimacy in a male-dominated society more focused on hiding secrets than nurturing children. Amy was adopted at the age of five and raised in California by adoring parents with Kansas roots. Her search for truth led to her realization – as an adult – that she had been sold in a black market, baby-selling racket. Amy’s journey through woundedness toward healing is indeed riveting. Amy and her husband also live in the Phoenix area.

My ghostwriting goal was to walk through their pain in order to write with their passion, personality, and voice. Success came when I heard myself using their phrases in my own conversations: “Oh, my stars!” or “Opa!”  My greatest compliments, however, came after their friends and family read their books and said to Jan and to Amy, “I heard your voice on every page.” Awww…sweet success for this ghostwriter!

Overall, I believe the ghostwriting experience is strangely similar to what a surrogate mother must feel. I carried, loved, and nurtured these manuscripts as I worked hard to give life to someone else’s baby, only to give it up when my work was done. Yes, heartstrings were tugged, but I am forever grateful for the experience and for the confidence Jan and Amy placed in my ability to assist them in the process.

Bonus? I made two wonderful friends!

As I spoke to fellow writers about ghostwriting memoirs recently, I challenged them to not be overwhelmed by the word “memoir” as many writers are. If we (even wannabe) writers are in the habit of journaling or blogging, or even sending out Christmas letters, we are already writing mini-memoirs! We are Editors-in-Chief of our own stories and should recognize ourselves as such.

I encouraged them to simply begin and shared some helpful writing exercises to discover long-forgotten memories. If you’ve been asked to help parents/grandparents to write their memoirs email me at and I’ll send a copy of my “Unpack the Past” handout.

God has opened some amazing doors for me since my retirement. Never could I have imagined I would publish five books in the last three years. Having the honor of writing for several Christian magazines is also due to the doors God opened. Wow. I’m living the dream. I’m blessed!

Blessings to you today as you reflect on your own past, and – perhaps – consider taking some time at your keyboard to write your own mini-memoir!

Until next time…


(c) Elaine McAllister 2022


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