Raised in a somewhat atypical blue-collar family in Dayton, Ohio (her stepfather was just 13 years older than Erma), Bombeck wrote for a school paper in junior high, worked for a local newspaper during high school, and had her biggest setback on the way to her destined career when a college teacher decreed that she lacked talent. Her first column, in the 60's, took a novel humorous approach to her own experiences as mother and homemaker; publishers worried about taking these sacred roles lightly, but readers recognized their own feelings in her comical observations and the column was promptly, and widely, syndicated. Best-selling books, speaking engagements, and a long-running TV engagement soon followed. Colwell, who's written extensively for Reader's Digest, Family Circle, etc., makes a smooth presentation well sprinkled with anecdotes, especially from Bombeck's early years. She also includes good summaries of related topics--syndication, book publishing, the changes in women's lives and self-perception that buoyed Bombeck's popularity. The focus here is on the public figure and the writer; the family is offstage, and even Bombeck herself remains essentially private--though what evidence Colwell offers confirms her picture of a sensible, conscientious person who is a compulsive, dedicated writer. Chronology; index. Many photos (not seen). No sources, but Colwell did interview Bombeck.