This evening I went to another of  The Oxford Story Museum’s occasional series  of talks  on the subject of 1001 Stories, once again hosted by the effervescent and infectiously enthusiastic  Michael Rosen. This time the subject was I Heard Wonder with Kevin Crossley-Holland. I first heard him in conversation with the polymath Jonathan Miller at Wingfield Hall in Suffolk years ago.


To fully document all the fascinating things I heard them talk about would be  difficult so I shall someone some of the main points that struck me….

I never heard of his maybe seminal work,  The Penguin Book of Norse Myths  but I think I may have to sell it out.

Roughly speaking, there are 60,000 words in the English language.  Of those about half of them are of Saxon origin, and half are Latin. The Saxon ones are all the simple, quick, direct words that describe our life and our actions. The Latin ones are the more prosaic and poetic ones.

The obsidian Seeing Stone of his Arthur trilogy was Kevin’s paperweight on his desk and was the object that inspired the story when he was  contracted to queue the story.

His friend Jill Patron-Walsh – another of my favourite authors who I would like to be a friend of – once told him that she didn’t think he had it in him to write a full-length novel.

Gatty’s Tale is the first novel that he had written that was was a story all of his own. And that was just seven years ago…

Gatty (short for Gertrude) in Arthur and the Seeing Stone was originally a bit called Sneezer until after about 100 pages when he realised that she should be a girl. Despite this, it wasn’t until his German publisher contacted him with the question of who Sneezer was on page 273!

Upon asked by a member of the audience if he always wanted to be a writer, Kevin  Crossley-Holland’s short answer was No. The longer answer was that he came to writing via wanting to be  archaeologist, radio commentator, priest… in that order…

Neil Gaiman once told him that he practically lived on his book of Norse Myths when writing American Gods.

When it came to have a copy of  one of his novels didn’t  I also got the incredible, mind-numbing, geeky pleasure of handling the very Seeing Stone that inspired a great book. I also asked what his views were on whether when using the old stories whether they be Greek, Arthurian,  or Norse, it mattered if you changed the stories or if it was okay to play with the characters and the stories. His view was that that was one of the things that made all these tasks special, that ever refer could make the stories anew…


Listen to Michael Rosen and Kevin Crossley Holland talking on BBC Radio Oxford on Wednesday 10 July 2013…