Author Gail Cushman, an Idaho native and retired teacher and principal who led schools in rural areas of the state, holds books in her "Wrinkly Bits" series, which centers around seniors navigating new romances. She is now working on a mystery novel.
After her husband died from an illness amid the COVID-19 shutdown, an Idaho native had every reason to believe she would be stuck inside her home, lonely.
But more than a year later, Gail Cushman, 76, got a wacky idea. What about writing about seniors dating online?
Without any experience in that realm, she went straight to Facebook Dating, where she encountered men from all ends of the spectrum — some were ready to get married after just a week of talking and others wanted nothing serious. Cushman hit it off with a man she calls “Cowboy Bob.”
Cushman, who now lives in Columbus, Mont., was born and raised in Emmett, Idaho.
She started her blog, “Wrinkly Bits,” in 2020. The following year, she got her first book published, the first in her “Wrinkly Bits” series, a collection of romantic-comedy novels about and for seniors, with one main character hailing from rural Idaho.
Cushman was a Marine Corps officer for three years and an English teacher for 19 years. She transitioned into being a high school principal at Timberline of Pierce-Weippe, Highland of Craigmont and other Idaho schools.
Someone once suggested she write a book based on her experiences.
“I thought, ‘Well, I guess I haven’t done this yet,’ ” Cushman said.
She started her first novel in August 2003, finished it a month later, right before Labor Day, and cranked out another soon after. However, with personal hardships at hand, neither was published and she took a break from writing.
When COVID-19 hit 17 years later curtailing her normal lifestyle, she found solace in the written word through her blog. So did others.
“I am very active and a lot of people my age are, but they were lonely,” Cushman said. “They were just home — people in nursing homes couldn’t go outside.”
Her husband, who died in 2020 of multiple diseases caused by past exposure to Agent Orange, was in a nursing home before his death. She would often visit, covered “head to foot” in personal protective gear, and would imagine how isolating life in a nursing home can be.
Seeing and living through those circumstances, she started writing “silly” blog posts, about anything really — coupons, underwear, telemedicine — that would make people laugh.
Readers started writing to Cushman of the joy her blog posts brought them, making them laugh with her raw and genuine stories.
“My feeling is that it fills a gap for seniors,” said Cushman. “I have readers from all over the United States, and it’s just gratifying.”
Although she now enjoys having readers who keep up with her work, she initially wrote for herself.
“I started this because of COVID-19 and also the loneliness of what it’s like to be an elder,” Cushman said. “I’m just fortunate to have done so many things in my life.”
She wrote and published four books in the Wrinkly Bits series: “Cruise Time,” “Out of Time,” “Wasting Time,” “Flash of Time” and “Bits of Time.” She’s now working on a mystery novel about a recent college graduate determined to solve a case.
“The best book I have written is the one I am working on right now,” Cushman said. “I’ve never written like this.”