She’s been called the Erma Bombeck of her generation by fans of her motherhood musings, the Carrie Bradshaw of Santa Barbara by lovers of her sassy cultural commentary, and some less-than-savory things by anonymous haters in the blogosphere. But what columnist Starshine Roshell has heard most in the past two years of writing for The Santa Barbara Independent is: “When’s the book coming out?”
She answered that question very briefly last year with the limited release of a column collection called Chew on This, and that sold out immediately. So a couple months ago, with the holidays on the way and more fans asking for more Starshine, the mother of two young boys and her comic book-designing husband John decided to give the people what they wanted, and publish a full-length, professionally produced anthology of her work. Featuring 78 columns that span such familiar Starshine-y topics as parenting, pop culture, womanhood, and life as a writer, Keep Your Skirt On is now on bookstore shelves, and will be officially celebrated with a cupcake and wine event on Tuesday, December 9, at the Sullivan Goss Gallery.
“I put a lot of work into every column, and I really wrestle with the flow and the structure and the rhythm and the point,” explained Roshell, who also teaches feature writing at Santa Barbara City College, freelances for various publications, and has her column published in two other newspapers and on a parenting Web site that’s read from Honolulu to Long Island. “It’s a little irritating that it publishes and then it’s gone, so I love the idea it’s going to be able to live on in this new form.”
The daughter of stage actor Doug Rowell, who named her after the Hair song “Good Morning Starshine,” Roshell was raised in Los Angeles, attended UCLA, and began writing for West L.A. papers and the Hollywood Reporter out of college. She moved up to Santa Barbara in 1994 and landed a job at the Santa Barbara News-Press, where she worked in various capacities (reporter, rock music critic, features editor, columnist) for 12 years. In October 2006, she escaped the crumbling daily amid its well-publicized and still reverberating employee exodus, and soon began writing for The Independent, where her column runs every other week in print and every week online. Her work reigns as one of the most popular features of independent.com and is repeatedly labeled a favorite by many readers around town.
So what keeps Starshine pumping week after week? “I love to tell stories,” she explained. “It’s simple and it sounds almost unambitious, but that’s what I enjoy. I like entertaining people, making people think, and, if possible, persuading them.” And there’s plenty of entertainment to go around in Keep Your Skirt On, with chapters on killing the tooth fairy, getting a designer vagina, learning to striptease, embracing erect nipples, fighting cancer, walking sexily, going gay, flossing, mopping, road-tripping, spanking, and everything else that a mother-wife-friend-reporter goes through in the 21st century.
Roshell is excited about the book’s release, and is hoping that it sells well this holiday season in bookstores and gift shops around Santa Barbara, which is the only city right now where it will be available. That could change if the book proves popular, but for now, she’s just happy to “throw her hat in” with other newspaper columnists around the world who rerelease their work as anthologies. That list includes Erma Bombeck, who Roshell has loved since childhood and is most proud to be compared to. “It’s not about getting rich,” said Roshell, who won’t take home too much of the book’s $15 sales price, “but if it brings more people to read future columns, I’d love that.”
Starshine Roshell will sign copies of Keep Your Skirt On this coming Tuesday, December 9, at 7 p.m. at Sullivan Goss (7 E. Anapamu St.). Jerry Roberts will introduce her, and cupcakes and wine will be served. See starshineroshell.com.