The author checking the personal ads in the Jewish Bulletin in 1995. (Photo/Cathleen Maclearie)
The author checking the personal ads in the Jewish Bulletin in 1995. (Photo/Cathleen Maclearie)

And just like that, I’m an author faced with the sweet stress of potential success

On the way to a writers’ group, I came to a bizarre realization: Pursuing a mate and publishing a book require similar strategies. 

You need to package your product, develop a platform and sell yourself. You will face repeated rejection, and even success will bring stress. (Think weddings.) Fortunately, my book sales are starting to rise — though so is my blood pressure.

“Love Atop a Keyboard: A Memoir of Late-Life Love,” my first published book, reveals how I searched and found love again, in a toy store, no less. Twenty-five years ago, when I was 56, a singing Silicon Valley engineer answered my personal ad in the Jewish Bulletin, the forerunner of J. 

“Cute writer seeks leading man for long-playing drama. … Willing to share marquee with woman your age who looks 10-15 years younger,” I wrote.

He called himself a keeper. Then he sent me a cartoon about how people who reply to singles ads send pictures of themselves when they were 15 years younger. 

“You’re right!” I replied. “Here’s a more recent photo.” In my email, I attached a JPEG of Golda Meir. 

When he rode up the escalator in the former FAO Schwarz in San Francisco, he flashed the JPEG of the late Israeli prime minister, pretending to search for her lookalike, and I laughed. That was our beginning.

Why did I write such an outrageous ad? I had nothing to lose. I was tired of being rejected by men in my age group who were looking for a woman in their 30s, so I took a risk. A year later, we were married.

In the singles game, rejection goes with the territory. One man in his 50s at a meet-and-greet once asked me if there were any women around age 28 in my hiking club because he wanted more children but didn’t want to take a chance on a 35-ish woman who needed to undergo amniocentesis. I told him my daughter wouldn’t look twice at a man older than her father. 

“Why don’t you play with the kids your own age?” I suggested.

He laughed, allowing that he and his 2-year-old son were the same age, emotionally. On that I agreed. 

Why did I write such an outrageous ad? I had nothing to lose.

I also met a man I call David the Date Amnesiac, who forgot that he had dated me several years before, so we had two first dates. Sometime after the second first date, he intercepted me as I was leaving a Jewish Bulletin singles event.

“How can you leave before we’ve met?” he said. 

I looked him straight in the eye and said I wasn’t interested in getting together with a man who was toting up how many women he could date just once. Later I found out he had also dated another Bulletin employee, my physical therapist and the leader of my women’s group.

More recently, in my pursuit of writing and publishing a book, I was ghosted by dozens of literary agents. Then one brutally honest agent gave me the straight skinny: She said publishers weren’t interested in memoirs by relatively unknown older women — even though they’re a demographic that actually buys books.

Disheartened, I stopped pursuing agents and explored hybrid publishing companies, which co-produce a book that the author helps finance. Unlike self-published books, these hybrid books look professional and are carried by major bookstores and handled by distributors. 

Hybrid publishing was not my first choice. It is an expensive proposition. In addition to forking over the money to finance the publication, I hired a website designer for janetsilverghent.com and a professional photographer, both of whom were worth it. Now I’m spending my time promoting the book instead of buckling down to finishing a novel I began writing 30 years ago.

Self-promotion does not come easily to me, but my efforts are starting to pay off. I’m selling my memoir to neighbors, friends and members of my choir and synagogue. Months after I sent an advance copy of my book to a book columnist at Hadassah Magazine, she included an upbeat mention in a roundup of feel-good books for dark winter days. Then orders on the publisher’s website began to grow. 

The actual release date is April 2, when Amazon will begin fulfilling orders, and my anticipation and anxiety are building. Several times a day, I check my Facebook page, my emails, my LinkedIn account and notes from my publisher. It’s a nerve-wracking process, and I can’t concentrate. But at 81, I’m still in play. Mercifully, my doctor upped my blood-pressure meds. 

Late-life publishing, like late-life dating, is not for sissies.

Janet Silver Ghent
Janet Silver Ghent

Janet Silver Ghent, a retired senior editor at J., is the author of the forthcoming book “Love Atop a Keyboard: A Memoir of Late-life Love” (Mascot Press). She lives in Palo Alto and can be reached at [email protected].