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Living on the wild side

Living on the wild side

Teri Rizvi February 28, 2020

The May 11, 2016, Dayton Daily News carried a teaser tabloid-style headline, "TV personality's mom 'corrupted' in Dayton."

This spring, Mike Rowe of “Dirty Jobs” fame will make a trip to the University of Dayton's Erma Bombeck Writers' Workshop to see for himself whether his best-selling author mom Peggy will go wild again, hanging out with writers “half her age and talking like a sailor.”

Peggy and Mike Rowe sit on a bench.The two, whose recent books both made it to The New York Times Best Seller List within the past year, will converse about writing and the funny side of family life with Patricia Wynn Brown, the workshop's emcee, as part of a dinner keynote talk on Friday, April 3, at the three-day workshop.

While the workshop is sold out, there’s still an opportunity for booklovers to meet the talented mother-son duo while they’re in town. They will appear at Books & Co. at The Greene at noon, on Friday, April 3, to talk about Peggy’s new book, About My Father and Other Celebrities I Have Known: Ruminations and Revelations from a Desperate Mother to Her Dirty Son. The cost is $28 and includes a pre-signed copy of the book and photo opportunities. Mike's pre-signed book, The Way I Heard It, also will be available for purchase. For tickets, click here.

His mother’s success doesn’t surprise Mike.

“She’s been writing all of her life, but one morning I woke up and realized she had somehow channeled Erma Bombeck and Betty White,” said Mike in an “Entertaining Insights” podcast that first aired last Mother’s Day. “If there’s a lesson in all of this it’s that it’s never too late. To be 81 and get a New York Times’ bestseller (as) a first-time writer … proves that it’s really never too late for anything.”

The characteristically humble Peggy Rowe, author of the humorous memoir About My Mother, said, “The most flattering thing in the world, to me, is to be compared to Erma Bombeck.”

With the skyrocket success of her first book — and a new one out in April — the former school teacher has become nearly as famous as her son, drawing large crowds at book signings and speaking engagements. Her Facebook page has attracted more than 118,000 followers, and millions read and hear her humorous letters and texts to a bemused son through his Facebook page, followed by 5.5 million fans.

Today, they both have books to share. The Way I Heard It features an entertaining collection of Mike’s favorite episodes from his podcast along with personal memories, ruminations and insights.

Mike spends much of his life on the road or in a production studio. In his Facebook series, Returning the Favor, he travels the country in search of remarkable people making a difference in their communities. As CEO of the mikeroweWORKS foundation, Mike has led the effort to close America’s widening skills gap and has granted or facilitated more than $5 million in work ethic scholarships that help train men and women for skilled labor jobs.

Flash back to 2016, when Peggy attended the biennial Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop for the third time. Mike’s Mother’s Day Facebook post, “Brand Friendly,” about Peggy’s experience went viral. An excerpt: “It was a total blast. I made a dozen new friends — all younger than you! We stayed up after midnight. I even had a glass of wine, and laughed so hard I nearly peed my slacks!” she told him. His response: “It’s possible I guess, that my mother has been leading a life completely separate from the one she’s allowed me to see — the kind of life that’s packed with hilarity and booze and potential incontinence. But it’s troubling to contemplate. Because the mother I know has always been, first and foremost, ‘brand friendly.’”

Peggy takes Mike’s ribbing with good humor and grace. “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,” she said. “If the Erma Workshop has corrupted me, it has only made me bolder and more self-confident — and that’s a good thing.”

Faces of the keynote speakers at the Erma Bombeck Writers Workshop April 2-4, 2020, in Dayton, Ohio. Launched in 2000, the Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop will celebrate its 20th anniversary with a star-studded line-up of keynote speakers — and the presence of the entire Bombeck family. Besides the Rowes, the slate will feature Dayton native Cathy Guisewite, author and Emmy Award-winning creator of the iconic “Cathy” comic strip; Annabelle Gurwitch, New York Times’ best-selling author and actress; Wendy Liebman, stand-up comic and a former semifinalist on America’s Got Talent; and Mike Reiss, Emmy Award-winning writer for The Simpsons and author of Springfield ConfidentialJokes, Secrets, and Outright Lies from a Lifetime Writing for The Simpsons and 19 children’s books. 

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