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Local women announces release of novel, ‘Becoming Leidah’

April 8, 2021   ·   0 Comments

By Constance Scrafield

Michelle Grierson is extremely pleased to announce the release of her first novel, next week on April 13, 2021: Becoming Leidah is published by Simon and Schuster. This has been no small feat: five years of research and writing; a happy win in a competition. Here is how Ms. Grierson described it to the Citizen.

“I entered the competition that was part of the FOLD Festival, which is run out of the Rose Theatre, in Brampton. The contest was to submit the first 20 first pages of your unpublished novel. If you win, you get the session with a publisher’s editor. Then, there was a 20-minute session with them. But the FOLD session said they wanted a full manuscript from me if it was done, which it was. This was in 2018.”

Ms. Grierson has been a teacher at ODSS for 20 years. She learned about the FOLD festival, through the school library, telling us, “The year before we had taken students down to the FOLD festival. I teach kids with special needs.”

Founded in 2014 by author Jael Richardson, he launched the Festival of Literary Diversity (FOLD) – the first literary festival devoted to celebrating underrepresented authors and storytellers, in May, 2016.

Becoming Leidah is based on “Norse and Celtic mythology,” as Ms. Grierson explained. “My dad’s family is Norwegian and for years, I’ve been piecing together the family tree. My mom is from the British Isles. About 10 years ago, I started to get interested in how those cultures blended. For me, the mother /daughter relationship [is fascinating]. Both have so many secrets they don’t share. The main thing is that those secrets will come to light even if you don’t share them.”

The story of Leidah begins with her conception and birth. She is a girl with blue skin and webbed fingers and toes.

“It’s clear from the beginning,” said Ms. Grierson, “that her mother expected something special. She keeps the child sheltered from everyone so that Leidah doesn’t know normal.”

However, there is an awakening: “Something happens; she leaves her own body and becomes things and then realizes that she is special, has special powers.”

The tale tells of the father as a character who tries to be a good man. The questions are, what do we inherit and what is ancestral memory? How do they blend to make a person?

We talked a bit about the process of launching and promoting this intriguing work.

“It just feels surreal,” was Ms. Grierson’s comment. “BookLore is so supportive. Zoom is so difficult. I think we’re zoomed-out. The publishers are still putting out new works because people are buying books, maybe more than ever.”

Considering the process for publishing Becoming Leidah began in 2018, she told the Citizen, “When I started working with my editor, going through the book a word at a time, then when everything shut down, it was a last minute read to make sure everything was perfect. It was pretty much done by the time the pandemic hit.

“Now it’s good to go for walks with my son and my dogs.”
Like every other teacher, Ms. Grierson has had the problem of teaching online, which she has found “tough. What I teach is drama and dance. Dance is coming up to teach this year, in my last quadmester.”

The blue girl in her book, Leidah, has no specific connection with a myth. Inspiration for the character was by Celtic myths of beings, part human, part animal.

“My curiosity was where do those images come from? They [scientists] continue to discover things in the sea that are very surprising.”

Becoming Leidah is a book of magic in part and the search for that magic found Ms. Grierson and her son travelling to Norway and, on the way back to Canada, to Iceland, where Elves are recognized by the government. In Norway are images of trolls. 

“This is part of my ancestry,” said she. “One thing that I’ve always agreed is ‘believing is seeing.’ That’s part of the book. Don’t require proof. Why would anything reveal itself to you?”

Not enthused about the online life and social media, Ms. Grierson’s publishers have naturally pressed her to make a showing online. So, she has a website, which has attracted the attention of publishers in Croatia, looking to print a translation of Becoming Leidah.
“I don’t know how they discovered it,” she admitted. “They contacted me through my website. I hope this opens the door for more international interest. I hope the story finds its way to the right readers, who will possibly think there’s more than just this [material world].”

In terms of trends and interest, it seems there really is this excavation of drama.

“It feels like it’s time for us to unearth these things from the past,” she theorized. “It talks about ancestral past and what do we have to deal with coming from the past? What’s escapist is the magic and the magic is inside the characters. There is trauma in the book but there is also joy in reclaiming the magic that is within all of us.”

She said it like an admission, “This is a sneaky way to talk about trauma but it talks about it as a fantasy. It is not a typical story but it can be easy because it goes back and forth between the past and the now.”

Michelle Grierson already has plans for her next novel. A historical fiction, set in 19th Century Paris. She declared her affection for that period and Paris.

“There’s so many layers of discovery in the 19th Century,” she said. “Especially for women, there’s a resilience. Anything out of a prescribed norm was a sort of madness. In terms of the richness with the writers and artists, it was a wonderful era.

“I’ve been to Paris several times and have taken students there – 40 teenagers in tow with six adults.”

Part of Ms. Grierson’s original publishing contract for Becoming Leidah is that they read her next manuscript first. Timing of that next manuscript counts too.

“There’s pressure but that gives me fire. There are so many stories to be told and I love language. When I dance with my students, we use a lot of stories. This is part of my process: do a lot of research books and notes: research, research, research, then, I write. More research, then write.”

Why Ms. Grierson hopes you will read Becoming Leidah: “The book does a couple of things – it brings magic into our consciousness and it speaks about family and relationships and the secrets that all families have. It’s grounded in a reality of that, then lifts itself up to magic. I’ve always loved stories about mothers and daughters. This, at its core, is about a mother and a daughter.”

Ms. Grierson’s very interesting website:

Michelle Grierson holds up “Becoming Lediah,” her new novel that’s coming out next week.

and her dog, a Norwegian “Buhund”, Bijou, possibly in a discussion about her book, Becoming Leidah, coming out next week.

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