"Late birds get worms while early birds get tired."
Judith Viorst is an American writer, newspaper journalist, and psychoanalysis researcher. She is perhaps best known for her children’s literature, such as The Tenth Good Thing About Barney (about the death of a pet) and the Alexander series of short picture books, which includes Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day (1972), which has sold over two million copies.
Viorst is a 1952 graduate of the Newark College of Arts and Sciences at Rutgers University in Newark, New Jersey. In 1968, Viorst signed the “Writers and Editors War Tax Protest” pledge, vowing to refuse tax payments in protest against the Vietnam War. In the latter part of the 1970s, after two decades of writing for children and adults, she turned to the study of Freudian psychology. In 1981, she became a research graduate at Washington Psychoanalytic Institute after six years of study.
A native of Newark, New Jersey, Viorst was raised in Maplewood, New Jersey, and attended Columbia High School. A graduate of the class of 1948, Viorst was inducted into the school’s hall of fame in 1990.
She currently lives in Washington, D.C., with her husband, political writer Milton Viorst. They have three grown sons: Anthony Jacob Viorst, an attorney practicing in the Denver, Colorado, area; Nicholas Nathan “Nick” Viorst, an Assistant District Attorney for New York County, and Alexander Noah Viorst, who finances affordable apartment properties around the country.
She received the 2011 Foremother Award for Lifetime Achievement from the National Research Center for Women & Families.
Writing for children
Among Viorst’s books for children is the “Alexander” series (including Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day), whose narrator is a 5-year-old boy who lives with his parents and two brothers, Anthony and Nick, who are named for Viorst’s own three sons.
Viorst’s book Sad Underwear is a collection of poems that examines a wide variety of feelings and experiences from a child’s point of view.
Writing for adults
Viorst’s books for adults include nonfiction psychology books such as Grown-up Marriage, Imperfect Control, Necessary Losses, and People and other Aggravations. Viorst is also a newspaper columnist and has written frequently for The New York Times and The Washington Post, and has been a contributing editor to Redbook magazine.
She also penned the musical Love & Shrimp with Shelly Markam. The Ensemble Theatre of Cincinnati hosted a performance of Love & Shrimp, starring Deb Girdler, Pamela Myers and Shelley Bamberger, in the spring of 1999.