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Live Inspired Podcast: Author of Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible… (Judith Viorst ep. 144)

Judith Viorst

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John O’Leary welcomes bestselling author Judith Viorst on the Live Inspired Podcast to remind us that laughter is truly the best medicine, at any age, to live an inspired life.

You know the beloved children’s classic Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day? Today we talk with the amazing author, Judith Viorst!

Judith shares her warmth, wisdom + cheeky humor about what it’s like to write books across genres for more than six decades – and what it was like not getting published for her first three decades!

In honor of national poetry month, Judith will read an excerpt from her “decades series” most recent is her book Nearing Ninety: And Other Comedies of Late Life. Judith’s perspective on the joys + tribulations of life will remind you that laughter is truly the best medicine, at any age, to live an inspired life.

Subscribe &  listen on Apple Podcasts, SpotifyStitcher, Google Play, iHeartRadio or listen here:


  • As a young girl, Judith began writing as poetry felt like a natural second language to her. Her first piece was published in her 30s.
  • Say yes and we’ll figure it out. Advice from her husband before being published for the first time.
  • The capacity for child-like wonder lives inside a lot of us, even as we get to be a middle-aged person.
  • Remaining playful is something you cultivate. [click to tweet]
  • Judith’s first children’s book The Tenth Good Thing About Barney was inspired by a conversation with her young son about death. Get a copy of it here.
  • Her original publisher turned down Alexander and the Terrible Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day which has sold more than 4 million copies. Get a copy of it here.
  • Inspired by the characters in The Secret Garden, Judith creates characters that are “hard-likes”: not easily likable but always redeemable by the end.
  • Judith shares her personal life through her writing, highlighting the ways people are more connected than they’re different.
  • When nobody reads this book, and nobody likes this book, please remind me of the joy I had writing it and how proud I am of it.”– Judith to her husband when submitting the manuscript of Necessary Losses. This book went on to be on the New York Times bestseller list for almost two years. Get a copy of it here.
  • Judith’s latest book, Nearing Ninety, is a collection of poetry from her “decades” series. These include Hard to be Hip Over ThirtyHow Did I Get to be FortyForever FiftySuddenly SixtyI’m Too Young to be Seventy, Unexpectedly Eighty.
  • Judith reads her favorite poem from Nearing Ninety “My Legacy”.
  • “To be interested in the changing seasons is a happier state of mind than to be hopelessly in love with spring.” – George Santayana

If today’s episode inspired you to cultivate your childlike spirit, you’ll love Live Inspired Podcast ep. 112 with artist, speaker + author Jason Kotecki and combat “adult-itis”.

If you like this podcast, you will love Live Inspired IN STUDIO. It’s my membership community where like-minded friends join me via live webcast to live inspired together. Registration opens soon! Join the waitlist.


1. What is the best book you’ve ever read? Magic Mountain by Thomas Mann.

2. What is a characteristic or trait that you possessed as a child that you wish you still exhibited today? Reliable.

3. Your house is on fire, all living things and people are out. You have the opportunity to run in and grab one item. What would it be? [She’s been asking herself the same questions for 20 years and will call us when she has the answer!]

4. You are sitting on a bench overlooking a gorgeous beach. You have the opportunity to have a long conversation with anyone living or dead. Who would it be? I can’t count my husband because he’d be my #1 date even after 60 years. I wouldn’t mind seeing my mother and asking her all the questions I was too dumb to ask her when she was alive.

5. What is the best advice you’ve ever received? Listen to people’s stories, don’t gossip, enjoy their joys, sympathize with their sorrows and be trustworthy of their secrets.

6. What advice would you give your 20-year-old self? Don’t; be so dumb and self-absorbed. Open your eyes. Look around a little more and stop worrying about what your hair looks like.

7. It’s been said that all great people can have their lives summed up in one sentence. How do you want yours to read? A line from Sunlight on the Garden by Louis Macneice: And grateful to have sat under thunder and rain with you. And grateful, too, for sunlight on the garden.


Did you enjoy today’s episode? Subscribe, rate + review on Apple Podcasts or wherever you get your podcasts!

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