A MEMOIR OF SHY TIMES

Dianne Dempsey | Bendigo Weekly | 24-Jul-2015

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Sian Prior
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Musician, broadcaster, journalist and teacher Sian Prior has hit the road. After spending the past four years working on her memoir Shy, and turning 50, she has given herself three months long service leave and with the aid of a campervan she’s currently a free-agent.

The memoir, written while she was doing a PhD in creative writing, took a lot of emotional energy from her.

“My research triggered memories in me which were quite hard to confront,” she said.
As the title suggests, Prior used her personal narrative as a way of examining something which has plagued her all her life. The theme of shyness runs through her book like a cold, deep current of water. It impeded her socially as well as professionally.

As a young girl it was agony for her to initiate friendships and as an adult performer, whether broadcasting, singing or playing the clarinet she would be socially anxious.

“You feel like an imposter, that you’re going to be caught out at any time,” she said.

As well there are physical symptoms of social anxiety.

“I have often suffered from gut problems and research has shown that shy people suffer from irritable bowel syndrome. There is well recognised connection between the brain and the gut,” she said.

An extremely articulate and attractive woman, her shyness was rarely recognised by her friends who were often surprised when she told them about how much she suffered from shyness.

It is a condition which has cost her a lot in life.

“It has meant a lifetime of lost opportunities on both a personal and professional level,” she said.

Prior spent the first 12 months writing her book, researching and seeking expert opinions on the subject and came to the conclusion that shyness is a temperamental trait.

“Shyness can be seen on a spectrum in life. You can go from being shy or being an extrovert. And in my case I have just had to fight through it,” she said.

“A lot of performers will tell you that they are shy. Sometimes musicians will hide behind their instruments, and that might be a good strategy for them.”

Her memoir covers the tragic loss of her musician father who was drowned while trying to rescue two of his friends. At the time Prior was in her mother’s arms while her mother watched the tragedy unfold from the beach.

And the memoir ends with another episode of loss. She talks about the impact of her relationship with musician Paul Kelly whom she was with for 10 years. Sian Prior will be at the Bendigo Writers Festival on Friday, August 7 1-4pm and Sunday 12.30pm.

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