(Editor’s Note: Peggy Rowe, who has attended the Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop three times, has published her first book at the age of 80 — proving it’s always the right time to write a book. When she self-published her memoir, About My Mother: True Stories of a Horse-Crazy Daughter and Her Baseball-Obsessed Mother, it sold 10,000 copies in three weeks. A second edition has been acquired by Forefront Books and will be distributed by Simon and Schuster in November. You can pre-order it here.)
How did you become a writer?
I became interested in writing in my fifties. After several creative writing courses at the local community college, I joined a couple of critique groups and attended numerous writers’ conferences. I finished three middle-grade novels (safely tucked away in a desk drawer.) I couldn’t interest publishers in reading them so concentrated on shorter humor pieces. My work has been published in magazines and newspapers over the past 17 years.
What motivated you to write this book? What took you so long to publish your first book?
Several of the stories in my book were first published in magazines and newspapers. The response to the stories I told about my mother was so positive and encouraging that I decided to write a book.
You have become a celebrity with millions of followers ever since Mike Rowe, your TV personality son, started posting and reading your humorous texts and letters on social media and his podcast. Are you surprised by the avalanche of attention? Can you even go to McDonald’s after church on Sundays anymore without being recognized?
I thank son, Mike, for all of the attention. He has millions of followers who taught me that people love brevity, humor and a positive outlook. I am recognized from time to time which is okay. People have been very nice. It just means that I comb my hair and put on some makeup before I leave the house.
You’ve been a regular at Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshops. What has inspired you the most from those workshops? Your son quips that EBWW might have corrupted you. Any truth to that rumor?
I’ve been most inspired by the people I’ve met at the Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshops. So many excellent, talented writers who have yet to be discovered. Writers who work hard at their craft and don’t share my great fortune in having a “celebrity” son with a large following. I met my editor, Michele “Wojo” Wojciechowski, at my first Erma Workshop in 2010. When I finished my book, she read it and told me it was great and worth publishing. She made some suggestions that helped me to make it even better. If the Erma Workshop has corrupted me, it has only made me bolder and more self-confident — and that’s a good thing! (Read the full story about her “corruption” here.)
Like Erma, you decided that writing was more important than ironing and dusting. Describe your writing process.
I don’t have the distractions younger writers have. No job or dependent children. I live in a condo that makes few demands, with a husband who makes even fewer. I write about four days a week.
Who are your writing influences?
I’m influenced every day by the people and circumstances in my life. I have been blessed with an abundance of rich material. Naturally, I love Erma Bombeck and have a collection of her books on my bedside table. I also enjoy David Sedaris, Dave Barry, Bill Bryson and Nora Ephron… Oh, and Mark Twain and Irving Stone…
What’s next? Are you working on a second book?
The second printing of About My Mother will be launched on Nov. 13. There are numerous readings and signings and interviews scheduled — both TV and radio. This is all new to me and will doubtless take some preparation and result in some anxious moments and sleepless nights. Son, Mike, promises to be by my side for the biggies! I do a daily blog for my book’s Facebook page. That usually takes an hour or so at some point throughout the day. A second book is well under way. It will be, by and large, a book of humorous family stories. (They are all working around the clock to ensure I don’t run out of material.)