First, she was a writer - and people came to count on Judith Viorst's regular column in Redbook for her funny little insights into everyday life. Next her children's book, "Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No-Good, Very Bad Day," became a classic.

Eventually - realizing she always writes about relationships anyway, she says - she decided to learn more about her subject. In 1981, after studying for six years, Viorst graduated from the Washington Psychoanalytic Institute.Then she wrote a classic for adults, "Necessary Losses: The Loves, Illusions, Dependencies and Impossible Expectations That

All Of Us Have to Give Up in Order to Grow."

Like so many mental health experts, Viorst tackles the difficult issues. Unlike so many mental health experts, she also makes us laugh.

Viorst comes to Salt Lake City this week to speak at Westminster College Day of Inspiration and later to be the keynote speaker at the college's women's conference. She speaks at 11 a.m. Thursday, May 16, in the new Jewett Center for the Performing Arts. That talk is open to the public at no charge.

Thursday evening, as part of the "Women, Spirituality and Power" conference, Viorst will give another address. Conference registration is $50, which also includes a full day of workshops and several meals on Friday and Saturday, May 17 and 18.

Viorst plans to talk about becoming a grownup, she says. "That's the way we survive all that life hands out. I'll talk about attitudes, reconciliations.

"I'll go into our relationships with our own parents, with our children. I'll talk about what is a grownup marriage. And how adults deal with the aging process. . . . How do we reconcile the young woman we have in our head with the aging process and the relocation of everything on our body a few inches lower?"

Growing up is about changing our expectations of ourselves and others, Viorst says. "We have fantasies when we are young about what kind of people we are going to be, and part of it is some vision of goodness. Maybe we also have overinflated ideas about others' goodness. We all learn, in the course of growing up, that we have a dark side. We must come to terms with that in ourselves and in other people."