Ah, the holidays. Constant parties. Festive apparel. Forced family fun. An introvert's nightmare.

"I call it the most extroverted time of the year," says author and introvert Sophia Dembling, of Dallas, whose "The Introvert's Way: Living a Quiet Life in a Noisy World" (Perigree, $14) just hit bookstores. "I don't want to check out of it entirely, but it can just completely overwhelm you, and then you get crabby."

Whereas Susan Cain's "Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking" is an introvert's manifesto, "The Introvert's Way" celebrates introversion and gives practical advice on how to survive raving extroversion. Holidays, Dembling says, are a true test of an introvert's mettle. She offered these tips:

  • Make yourself useful. If you're at a party, help serve the food. "You're interacting, but you're doing your own thing. I call it pretend mingling."

  • "Find ways to get away" from a family gathering. "I had a family gathering in Chicago, and the weather was 4 degrees, and the entire family was trapped inside for days on end," Dembling recalls. "That's the hardest thing for me." Take your running shoes and say you're going out for exercise, she advises. Also, she likes having her first cup of coffee in her bedroom.

  • If you're trapped in a room full of people visiting with each other, work a puzzle or knit while you talk. The busywork creates "psychic space," Dembling says.

  • At the mall, "hide in plain sight." While others frantically search for gifts, sit and people-watch. Introverts do this very well.

  • About those gifts: "Introverts are such deep thinkers," Dembling says. "Every gift has to be perfect." So, she makes a lot of her gifts.

  • "Choose your parties, and don't let anyone convince you the party's going to collapse if you leave," she says. There's an art to leaving a party, and, in fact, one of Dembling's favorite party-leaving gambits involves art. She and her husband, Tom, have a secret code: "Let's look at the art." They start making the rounds of the home, looking at the walls, and make their way to the door, from which they exit.

    "It's a lot easier to enjoy parties if we don't feel trapped," she says. "Of course, at office parties, you have to put your best foot forward and pretend to be an extrovert. At those, you really have to put on your clown nose."

    Then, after the season's over, take a deep breath and plunge into the new year.

    "I like the concept of a clean slate," Dembling says, although she eschews big horn-blowing New Year's Eve parties for quieter celebrations -- say, an evening looking at the night sky with just her husband.

    Introverts, indeed, can survive the holidays, she says. It's just a matter of doing it their own way.

    "There's this concept that the extrovert way is the right way," Dembling says. "No, it's just a way. And our way is equally valid."