Maui authors first bookBy Gary T. Kubota
WAILUKU -- Valley Isle resident Sharlee Dieguez went to the annual Maui Writers Conference with an interest in writing a book, although she had never written a story.
"I'd never written anything. I was famous for my Christmas newsletters," she said.
Now, four years later, Dieguez is preparing to go on a U.S. book tour to publicize her first novel, "The Bearded Lady."
The 308-page book, published by Hill Street Press of Atlanta, is about two orphaned girls who grow up while working in a traveling circus in the southeastern United States near the turn of the century.
Dieguez said she would not have had the motivation and knowledge to write a novel if she hadn't attended the conference.
The annual conference, scheduled to take place in September, has helped to launch another Maui writer, Debra Iida, author of "Middle Son," published by Algonquin Books.
Dieguez says she overcame her fears about writing a novel after meeting with agents and novelists at the conference.
When she attended the next conference, she came with 100 pages of her first novel and was a finalist in a writing competition.
Paul Woods, a friend and news writer, says Dieguez had a sense of focus and was willing to revise her work to improve the story.
"It's fun to see someone begin just with pluck and an idea," Wood said. "Despite the strange setting, it's a wonderful story. It's a girl's growing-up story."
The novel includes an assortment of characters, including a bareback horse rider, a fortune teller and the freak world of a circus, with surprise twists in plot.
"Basically, I wrote a story I'd like to read," she said.
In some ways, Dieguez has a varied view of the world through experience.
She has been a Playboy bunny, a horse-riding American Indian in a traveling Wild West show, a waitress, a flight attendant, a certified gemologist and a medical emergency-care administrator.
Dieguez said writing wasn't easy. In her first draft she wrote the stories from 15 points of view and was told by agents she had to limit the points of view to one or two people.
"So I picked myself off the floor and started with Page 1," she said. "Writing it wasn't without blood, sweat and tears."