Top 10 People You Probably Won't See on a Top 10 List: Old Is the New Black

10/27/2011 03:12 pm ET | Updated Dec 26, 2011

Publishing my first novel at 47, I missed the chance to be one of America's Top Novelists Under 40. Now that I'm eligible for America's Top Novelists under 100, they don't have such a category -- nobody gets old in America. You know what they say: Old writers never die, they just go out of print.

I actually hate top 10 lists anyway--there are always deserving people left off them (Ahem.) And yet here I am making my own list, which will be occasional and biased, ever growing, and will welcome nominations.

Old Is the New Black honors Top 10 Endurers.

Or as Janet Jackson said, "You get yourself up for it somehow."

Not in any particular order or field, here we go.

1. Me. Hey, I'm making the list; it'd be WEIRD if I didn't put myself on it.

2. Of course Betty White is on it too, but she's an easy one.

3. Let's go way back to Helen Hooven Santmeyer, and her 1334 page novel, "And Ladies of the Club," a huge best seller. I owe Helen a long overdue apology. I never knew she was an accomplished woman as well as writer--Rhodes scholar, college professor and dean, etc.--all I knew was that she had published a book when she was old. When I was struggling year after year with an endless novel, numerous people said cheerily, Look at the woman in Ohio who published her book at 88!


Great, I'd think. I'll hand out lemon drops at the Home.

Luckily, when I did finally publish that novel I was still in my own home and able to hand out champagne instead. And I was old enough to know that Helen Hooven Santmeyer had probably been uncorking champagne too.

4. How about that Anglesey writer, Myrrha Stanford-Smith, who, after writing her first novel, was given a three book deal at 82? About her first novel, she said, "It was so lovely to have the book in my hand with its embossed cover. I read it again just for pleasure - to have my book, my words, in my hand as my own book, it was wonderful. It's on the bookshelves now next to my favorite authors, with a gap for the next two in the trilogy."

But even though I have a soft spot for writers because I know their pain, this list isn't just for them.

You know that old adage: If at first you don't succeed, try and try and try and try and try and try and try and try...

5. Let's hear it for Cha Sa-Soon, the 69 year old Korean woman who failed her driver's test hundreds of times, but never gave up. Happy day when she got her driver's license on her 960th try! Joining Cha in happiness were the instructors at her driving school, even though she'd no longer be paying a $5.00 application fee for each test (960 X 5 = $4800.00). It felt like a huge burden falling off our back, they said. We didn't have the guts to tell her to quit because she kept showing up.

And Hyundai gave her a $16,800 car.

6. Now here's a world's record holder: Fauja Singh, 100-year-old Briton from London, has become the world's oldest marathon runner, running the Toronto Waterfront Marathon in eight hours, 25 minutes and 16 seconds. BBC news said that Mr. Singh "hit the wall" at 22 miles, but kept on for another two hours, finishing in 3,850th place, ahead of five other competitors.

Mr. Singh took up running 11 years ago after his wife and son died and trains every day by running 10 miles. He attributes his stamina to ginger curry, tea and being happy. The secret to a long and healthy life is to be stress-free, he said. Be grateful for everything you have, stay away from people who are negative, stay smiling and keep running.

I know I'm only at #6, but I've got a book to write and I couldn't very well title a Top 10 list "Top 6." Besides, when you're old enough, you know these lists cannot be confined to 10. Or 100. Or 1000. There are more Top People than you can count. For this round, Mr. Singh gets the last word, for he has summed up the secret to endurance both metaphorically and succinctly: Keep running.