Shy: An Anthology

Shy BookWe’re not exactly scene-stealers, so you don’t hear much from us shy folk—and that’s usually how we like it. —Elizabeth Zotova, “My Dear X”

The pages of this anthology are filled with personal essays and poems of thoughtful musings, raw memories, and humorous self-examinations by authors and poets who have been labelled by the world—teachers, parents, and peers—as shy. Here, they proudly own up to their shyness, and their message is clear: they don’t need to be “cured”! Why should they, when nearly half of North Americans consider themselves shy? Editors Naomi K. Lewis and Rona Altrows have enlisted writers from across the continent and have created a moving anthology that will appeal to all, either because we are shy or because we know someone who is.

Editors: Naomi K. Lewis and Rona Altrows

Contributors: Rona Altrows, Alex Boyd, Debbie Bateman, Wade Bell, Janis Butler Holm, Brian Campbell, Weyman Chan, Lorna Crozier, Mike Duggan, Ben Gelinas, Elizabeth Greene, Vivian Hansen, Elizabeth Haynes, Steven Heighton, Jennifer Houle, I.B. (Bunny) Iskov, Eve Krakow, Shawna Lemay, Naomi K. Lewis, Shirley Limbert, Carol L. MacKay, Don McKay, Stuart Ian McKay, Jeff Miller, Micheline Maylor, Bruce Meyer, Dhana Musil, Lori D. Roadhouse, Kerry Ryan, Sydney Sharpe, Natalie Simpson, Sylvia Stopforth, David Van Buren, Aritha van Herk, Russell Wangersky, Cassy Welburn, Madelaine R. Wong, Elaine Woo, and Elizabeth Zotova.

Shy is published by The University of Alberta Press. It is available through or, or you can support your local bookstore by ordering through them.

Some reviewers’ comments

The intimacy and honesty with which shyness, introversion, and attendant phobias, each different and debilitating, are revealed in Shy demonstrates unexpected bravery…. Shy readers will find kindred spirits and inspiration in the airing of emotions and attitudes normally kept locked inside. Less shy readers may come to better understand the occasionally incapacitating dread that is often mistaken for aloofness.
-Joy Parks, Quill & Quire, December 2013

In all, Lewis and Altrows received more than 100 submissions from across the country and beyond. [Shy: An Anthology] has a fine pedigree, too, with award winners like Lorna Crozier, Steven Heighton, Russell Wangersky and Weyman Chan, as well as local writers Lemay, Wade Bell and Ben Gelinas, among the dozens of contributors.
-Michael Hingston, Edmonton Journal and The Province, November 7, 2013

Shy, An Anthology battles the stigmas and assumptions that surround what it means to be shy with a collection of poems and personal essays…. Primarily, the essays recounted childhood experiences, though some did discuss shyness in adulthood. For this reason, I couldn’t help but think that these stories would make powerful guest lectures at elementary or high schools…. I found [Shy] to be a worthwhile read that I would recommend to anyone who has felt some sort of philosophical compulsion to understand her or his own shyness. In many ways, Shy is a compilation of coming of age stories centred on bashful, artistic individuals. And I am thankful to them for sharing their experiences.
-Senica Maltese, Coastal Spectator, November 14, 2013 [Read the full review  here]

The two [editors] set about enlisting writers from across the continent to share their stories of stage fright, reticence, insecurity, ‘otherness,’ inconvenient blushing and, generally, the rich, sometimes painful, inner life of being a self-conscious human being…. it is a revelation to shyniks to read literature that represents the whole spectrum of shyness-from squirmy discomfort to debilitating social paralysis-and, through various voices, asks readers not just to reject and overcome but to accept and even celebrate a character trait that deserves every bit as much respect as gregariousness gets in our culture.
-Jacquie Moore, Calgary Herald, October 24, 2013 [Read the full review here]

For people who have never thought of themselves as shy personalities, the various voices of “shyness” that richly crowd the pages of this anthology represent a chorus of eloquent witnesses to tell us that perhaps we are all shy, to one degree or another. In prose and poetry, writers from across Canada and beyond wrestle with their demons in metaphors, images and narratives that left me in no doubt of the torment and grievous sense of loss and isolation that some forms of shyness inflict on the writer, shyness as dread and humiliation and pathology. There is also – arising from the amazing variety of experience attested to in Shy – what I now think of as ethical shyness, linguistic shyness, gendered shyness, discerning shyness, self-blaming shyness, situational shyness. Yet, we are left with the message that shyness may bring its own reward: that there is a creative power and amplitude in the experience of silence, reserve and solitude that shy writers know as the muteness, in the words of contributor Don McKay, “falling all around you, lavishly, pouring its heart out.”
-Myrna Kostash

How to buy this book

This book’s publisher is University of Alberta Press (
ISBN 978-0-88864-670-5 (pbk.). ISBN 978-0-88864-743-6 (epub).
ISBN 978-0-88864-744-3 (Amazon kindle). ISBN 978-0-88864-745-0 (pdf).

I encourage you to support your local independent bookstore. If the book is not in stock, you can ask the staff to order it for you (the ISBN number might be helpful).

If you are in Canada you can also buy this book from Chapters Indigo Online ( )

Don’t forget your library

Canada has a program called Public Lending Rights (PLR) that pays each book author an annual sum based on the number of libraries that carry the book. Please encourage your local library add this book to their collection! Most libraries are happy to receive book recommendations.