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Sunday, February 08, 2009


Those of you who bravely made it through The Badger Diaries, parts one, two, three, four, and five may be wondering . . . “What happened after you left the castle?” Or you may not be. I don’t want to make any assumptions about what you do with your personal wondering time.

In any case, I am here to provide the answer . . . and to tell you how this connects to THE FUTURE.

About the other residents . . . in my account, I am frequently paranoid about them. This was the reality. In fact, they were all quite nice people, and after I left, I communicated for a while with Ron, Nigel, and even Petunia, I think.

It turned out, almost everyone was experiencing something similar . . . the castle had the habit of doing that. In the last few days, as we all started to get to know one another better, Hubert explained this. He said that frequently, people completely went nuts in the first two weeks, and then calmed down in the third week, and grew to love it by the fourth. Which is exactly what happened to me.

He went on to say that there had been cases of the writers REALLY LOSING IT. One tried to escape by bicycle and flipped over the handlebars, another went for an aggressive walk on the path and fell down the wall of rock I describe on the in the fifth section—the one that slopes down, down, down to the river in one solid sliding board of stone. Apparently he was down there in the river for a while, until the housekeeper noticed he was gone, hours later.

I did have to trim a small section entirely devoted to how I used to steal the internet for the entire last week—because it contained a lot of details about the personal lives of the others. But I should admit that I was sneaking around for the last five days with a cord I bought in town. There was a phone jack in the main hall, right by Hubert’s room. Once Petunia noticed this, it was all over. We would wait for Hubert to go out, and then we would all cluster on the stairs and hover around the jack, plugging in our computers, using some old dial up connection that Petunia had. If we heard Hubert come in, we’d all scramble, like roaches when the lights come on.

I got addicted to the phone jack. Unlike the others, I was in a foreign country, and desperately wanted to talk to people from home. I got more brazen. I used to do these sneaky drive-bys in the hall. I’d have the cord rolled up and hidden in my hand. If I was sure Hubert was busy outside or watching TV (he had one in his private rooms), I’d slink along, plug the computer in, suck the e-mails right off the line, yank it out, and KEEP RIGHT ON WALKING.

To get this good, I had to prep in my room beforehand. I’d have e-mails ready and written, all in the outbox. I’d have the prompt window up. I’d have gone through all the settings quickly, so I knew exactly what to click. I was fast and crazy and reckless.


And one time, I almost got caught. That phone jack was in a VERY public place. I heard Hubert come along unexpectedly, and I pulled the thing right out of the wall and scrambled to the sitting room where the others were—and then Hubert came in, and I was doing a terrible job covering, and I had to sit on the cord for about AN HOUR.

But those illicit e-mails allowed me to plan something. See, I figured since I’d already come all the way across the ocean, why not STAY across the ocean for a bit? I’d had to buy a ticket quickly, not really knowing when I was going to return, so I had five days to kill. So I thought I would go back to London, then take the Eurostar to Paris!

Sounds exciting, right?

I made this plan from someone from America, who was to fly over the day I left the castle, and meet me in London, at the flat where my friends Trevor and Grace Dangerous lived. (This flat was the model for Richard’s home in 13 Little Blue Envelopes—at least in location. Their actual flat was immaculate and stylish.) Two tickets on the Eurostar were purchased. A hotel room was obtained. All systems were go!

On the morning I was to leave, I was having breakfast with Nigel and Petunia, when the phone rang. It was for me. The person on the other end of the line was my travel companion, who I will call Biff.

I thought it was very clever of Biff to be calling me when he was supposed to be 42,000 feet directly overhead, about to land at Heathrow Airport in 30 minutes time. He told me that Things Had Gone Wrong—that he had been about to leave for the airport when he noticed a Tiny Problem. His passport was expired. He was still in America.

This caused a bit of a snag.

I spent the last hour of my stay literally running through the castle, as this conversation made me late. I was in an utter panic, throwing my last items into my suitcase. WHAT TO DO? I was about to be thrown into this trip by myself.

My bag was ridiculously large. (I had borrowed it from my parents at the last moment before leaving, because my parents take TOURS and CRUISES and other things where people carry your bags for you, and they are oblivious to the fact that their bag is actually people-sized. I could fit in the suitcase. I know this because I tried. I got really bored one night in the castle and climbed inside to see if I could zip myself in, and I made it 80% the way around. Anyway, my mom was all, “Just take the big bag. You’ll be sorry if you don’t bring enough sweaters and hats!” So I borrowed the big bag, because I was in a rush, because I had exactly five days to prepare for the trip, including ticketing and paperwork, and all the other things you have to do. I filled it with every sweater I owned, thinking, “I am going to Scotland, in the winter, for a month.” The bag became a running joke to all who saw it. It didn’t fit in Trevor’s car. It barely fit up the stairs to our rooms. It was two times the size of any suitcase that anyone else brought, and was clearly AN AMERICAN’S BAG . . . so a tip for any Americans thinking of traveling abroad, take it from me . . . LITTLE BAG. Seriously. You don’t need that stuff. I tell you this as someone who goes to England several times a year and had to buy progressively smaller suitcases for each trip . . . well, partially because Oscar Gingersnort, keeper of the London Office, owns a “sportscar,” or, as I like to put it, “a car only slightly larger than a hamster ball” and it literally has no backseat or trunk, and whatever suitcase I carry must fit ON ME. You will not run into this specific restriction, but I’m telling you, JUST BRING THE SMALLER BAG.)

Anyway, I was packing my monstrous bag and running around in an upset panic, because all had gone to pieces. I was ALREADY nervous that day because I was going to be traveling back to London on a SLIGHTLY ILLEGAL TICKET. Well, not illegal but . . . I had this train ticket that was supposed to be used at a completely different time, because when I bought it, I had no idea when I was leaving the castle . . . so I had made this plan to get on the train with it, pleading American Stupidity and hoping I could talk my way out of the hundred or so pound fine by saying, “Well, gosh! I just don’t know the ways of your fancy train, here!” Which is not right, obviously, and no one should do that . . . but frankly, it almost always works. You can get away with a lot in the UK just by playing up your American accent and blinking a lot. It helps if you carry a Coke and wear a sweatshirt with the name of a state university on it. It doesn’t improve our national image, but it will get you out of trouble. (Travel tip!)

ANYWAY . . . I was packing my bag and generally losing my mind, and the bag was TOO HEAVY TO LIFT. So Nigel came to my rescue and carried the bag all the way down the stairs, and the groundskeeper drove it and me up the path to the road.

Where I was deposited. When you’re done at the castle, you’re just done. I had to wait for a bus to Edinburgh (a trauma in and of itself, getting the bag on there, etc.). And then I had to get the bag to the train. And then I had to trick a conductor.

Which I did, successfully. But not without getting a lecture. I spent the entire four hour train ride trying to look meek and sorry—and inside, my wheels were turning. What was I going to do? I had two tickets to Paris, and only one of me.

Trevor met me on the other end and commiserated with me. Neither he nor Grace could go to Paris. We tried to find someone in the next few hours who could, but there was simply no one. The notice was far too short. I mean, there I was, running around with a ticket, saying, “You can have this FOR FREE. Just come with me to Paris! Right now!” But people had to “work,” and “do things,” and they wanted to come the next day or the day after.

So I ended up in the Eurostar station by myself, sipping a coffee and waiting for a train to France. While I was there, I picked up a napkin at the Costa Coffee and drew a stick figure on it.

“You will be my companion,” I said to the napkin. “We will go to Paris together. I will call you Napkin Biff.”

And so we did. I sat Napkin Biff in the real Biff’s seat. The entire ride to Paris, I waited for someone to ask me if that napkin had a ticket, because I had it right in my pocket and was ready to produce it. “Oh yes,” I would say. “Here it is.” And I would be known as the person who bought a Eurostar ticket for a napkin.

But no one did.

For the next three days, I took my napkin friend all around Paris. It hailed much of that time. The sky turned pink and green. The trees were bare. There was a strange smell in my hotel room, and for fun, I watched Scrubs dubbed into French and the last helicopter explosion movie I had left. I took a full photographic record of my travels with Napkin Biff (which seems to have vanished from my hard drive—I have asked Daphne if she has copies).

Mostly, I spent my time in the Louvre, drinking tiny coffees until I shook, and putting together the puzzle for 13 Little Blue Envelopes.

And there, I bring you back to the present . . . or, to about three weeks ago, where the story picks up.

So, I’m sitting working with Libba Bray and Cassie Clare, and Robin Wasserman, like I often do. I was talking to my beloved agent, Daphne, online. We were discussing an EXCITING NEW PROJECT I am working on. I had hoped to be able to tell you what that project is, but cannot reveal it yet, for various reasons . . . but I HOPE TO TELL YOU SOON.

Anyway, I was talking to Daphne, and Cassie leans over to me and says, “Hey . . . want to go write in a castle in Ireland?”

And I said, “Yes. When? Yes. What? Who’s going? Okay. When?”

Because I sometimes ask questions out of order.

So, on the fifth anniversary of the Scottish castle, I am going off to work on the SEKRIT PROJECT in an Irish castle . . . but this time, with friends! I will be joined by Cassie, Robin, Holly Black, Carrie Ryan, Ally Carter, Diana Peterfreund, Sarah Cross, Jennifer Lynn Barnes, and Sarah Rees Brennan.

I know. I know. Ten YA writers. One Irish castle. Ireland, are you out there? Are you ready for us?

Takeoff for that is this time next month. By that point, I hope to be able to reveal my SEKRIT.

Feel free to guess MY SEKRIT in the comments, or to reveal SEKRITS of your own!

PS . . . my addiction to Twitter grows. It is now approaching my addiction to Facebook. Please, come join me on my upward spiral.

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Blogger Khy said...

Ten YA writers in one castle? Don't you think the castle will burst because of all the awesome that will be packed inside it?

And as for your sekrit project...are you going to free Alan Rickman? Work with JK Rowling on something? Watch Hamlet on unicycles?

4:59 AM  
Blogger Maureen said...


5:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Um, WOW. 10 YA WRITERS. ONE IRISH CASTLE. That sounds like the starting point for a very very very awesome reality TV show. In fact you should all make lots of youtube videos while you are there, possibly involving Abba. Please?

Also while you are in Ireland if at all possible there should be a Europe version of the Westport CT event of epicness, because I am still all sad about the fact that that is the wrong side of the Atlantic :(

And I just got twitter, and was just wondering if it would be more addictive than facebook. You have confirmed my worst twitter fears MJ. I am very. very. SCARED.

- Ali x

5:01 AM  
Anonymous Sasha said...

Ten YA authors in one Irish castle sounds like the most amazing experience ever. Please excuse me while I go faint from envy...

I really hope that your SUPER SEKRIT PROJECT is a film adaptation of one of your novels! I think they'd all make for wonderful films, and maybe ABBA can do a cameo...Suite Scarlett would translate to film really well, I think. And I'd love to see 13 Little Blue Envelopes because I love movies about traveling around Europe.

5:11 AM  
Blogger Dasha said...

This sounds very exciting, and I totally want to visit you guys in your Irish castle when you get there. What's a couple hour's train journey to Ireland (from England)...?

... Though I'm not entirely sure my parents would approve. Shame.

In any case, is your sekrit... hmm... no, I had several ideas involving kittens, castles, vacuum cleaners, and Alan Rickman, but none of them seem right, somehow.

5:15 AM  
Anonymous Stephanie W. said...

My guess is that your "SEKRIT" is that you're writing a sequel to 13 Little Blue Envelopes! :]

How else would the Badger Diaries and ANOTHER castle with writer relate?

5:26 AM  
Anonymous Noor said...

HOW AWESOME WILL THAT CASTLE EXPERIENCE BE? Too awesome. Mind if I hop on over to Ireland too?

5:32 AM  
Blogger lauren said...

I like the labels you put on the blog post! "Contributions to society" has to be my favorite.

Are you SURE you're ready to relive the trauma that is an Irish castle? Is there going to be a Badger Diary Number Two? When do you think you'll be able to tell us about the Project of Sekritness? If it has anything to do with kittens on a Roomba, I am so in.

5:42 AM  
Blogger Stephanie said...

Haha I think we would make great travel companions. Once I was with my cousin, bored in PARIS! of all places, and we made little bunny companions out of whatever garbage we could find. They were merry French bunnies who taught us as you do, that being American can be unpleasant and grating, but useful--think of it as a skill, they told us.

5:58 AM  
Anonymous tara said...


6:02 AM  
Anonymous noel said...

I am both really happy about your new project, and SUPER INTENSELY JEALOUS. Lucky writers, doing fun Writer Things in a castle! In Ireland! You will be updating from there, right? I can't wait to read about it!

6:18 AM  
OpenID brermatt said...

I think your SEKRIT project is to write a collab novel in 10 parts called Let It Tan, about how a group of Irish teens get stuck in the sun one summer and get café au lait tans and fall in love.

6:27 AM  
Blogger Stephanie said...

Napkin Biff is pretty much my favorite thing ever.

6:27 AM  
Anonymous Rachel said...

Please please please can the sekrit be that I get to come???


Or not. But please???

6:35 AM  
Anonymous Lysh said...

Yay the aftermath! Did you ever see a badger? If not, I hope you will on your stay in Ireland. And I hope they're not scary.

Is the sekrit project a new book of some kind? Or a collab book? Or a sequel to a book? Or writing a screenplay for one of your books?

7:05 AM  
Blogger Hollishillis said...

oh my goodness maureen. this is incredible. it sounds wonderful! I'm intensly jelous! I can't wait to hear about this one. your life is so exciting!

7:08 AM  
Blogger Hollishillis said...

is your secret writing a book of short stories with these authors? hmmm? is it? I was just thinking of libbas short story she's goign to be working on and I wondered. but then again libba is not coming with you (sadly) so it probably isn't. le sigh. I must hide myself in your person sized suitcase and discover the mystery!!!!

1 ireland castle, 10 ya authors, 1 fangirl in a suitcase.

I can dream, okay?

7:10 AM  
Blogger Zara said...

Gasp! 10 writers. One Irish castle. One has a secret... It sounds like the next horror movie/reality TV show. :) It also sounds like Complete and Total Awesome.

Hm...I have thought long and hard about the nature of the Sekrit Project, but I'm not coming up with much. Maybe a plan for the opening of the long-awaited Abba museum? I don't know...the agony. Will it have anything to do with professional trampoline competitions?

P.S. I'm Super Jealous of Napkin Biff.

7:33 AM  
Blogger Lexi said...

Ohmygosh can I PLEASE come to Ireland too?

I am so unbelievably jealous.

8:03 AM  
Blogger Chelsea said...

That castle is going to be filled with SO MUCH AWESOME. Holy crap.

I have a guess, but it has already been said here.

8:12 AM  
Blogger Tiff said...

I really, really want to come and spy on your SEKRIT project...and Diana's. And anyone else's who is willing to share.

I agree with Stephanie W, though. I think the secret is a sequel to 13 Little Blue Envelopes, which remains my favorite of all your books. Please say this is true so that I can go die of happiness from Keith and Ginny getting back together.

8:30 AM  
Anonymous MissPineapple said...

Yay for Napkin Biff (although if memory serves he had another name in the travel tips thing that was on the site before the remodel)!!

I think you should make it your goal to spend a month writting in a different castle every five years.

Reveal the sekrits soon! XD

8:40 AM  
Blogger Ariel said...

Oh, that's not a SEKRIT, Maureen.
I don't mind if people know that you're going to ship part of the castle to me.

9:23 AM  
Anonymous Beckster said...

Do they allow the internet in this castle? I hope so, for your twitter/facebook obsession of course. And plus, I'm not sure if we could go without an MJ blog for that long!

10:13 AM  
Blogger Colt said...

I wanna be a YA writer!...hmmm is your SEKRIT PROJECT some sort of device to turn people into MJ fans/loyal subjects/slaves. Or are you working on a kick ass new book...OR IS IT A PONY!!!!
PS...I hold a sekrit little place in my heart for ABBA (don't tell!)

11:00 AM  
Blogger Diana Peterfreund said...

I'm not sure if my project will be Sekrit or not. It depends how long it takes me to finish the sequel to Rampant this month...

4:23 PM  
Blogger delightfully mediocre said...

Ireland is completely wonderful! I lived there for six months in college (some people call this "studying abroad" but when you're in Ireland in college you do lots of things, but studying is rarely one of them). I should warn you - it gets very dark at night and depending on where you are, there may not be street lights. Just FYI. While I was there I didn't run across any badgers, but do watch out for rogue ponies.

Is the sekrit that you're RECORDING AN ALBUM? Of IRISH FOLK SONGS? With all of those other wonderful people? Because if it isn't, think about it - I'd buy it.

9:33 PM  
OpenID serafina-zane said...

ooooooohhhhh, SEKRITS. I am excited to find out the identity of these secrets.

Also, that trip sounds awesome. Even if Ireland smells funny. They have many great things, like Emo the gas station!

10:46 PM  
OpenID litescape93 said...

I am nearly bursting with jealousy and happiness!! (wasn't quite sure they could go together) 10 YA authors (at least half of which i am a huge fan) stuck in a CASTLE, in IRELAND, WRITING, and HANGING OUT WITH EACH OTHER?! (AND SEKRITS?!) my face is perpetually pinched into a mask of giddiness as my eyes turn glassy from staring at the computer too long just thinking of the possibilities... please blog about it! :)

10:56 PM  
Blogger Marvelous Maggie said...

You'll have to excuse my friend Colt. You see, he's in the middle of a hostile takeover of our high school right now, so he assumes everyone is doing something similar to that.

And if you actually are planning to use some kind of device to turn people into your fans/loyal subjects/slaves then I am SO THERE.



11:22 PM  
Blogger Marvelous Maggie said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

11:22 PM  
Blogger Sarah Rees Brennan said...

Ireland is ready. We have wimples.

12:20 AM  
Anonymous Alysson said...

okay A) I love that all my favourite writers are friends with each other, and always have. Your books, Cassandra Clare's books and John Green's books line my walls... soon to be joined by Sarah Rees Brennan. (I'm currently reading 'the summoning' which she suggested... and I LOVE Derek.. to bits.)

and B) that's exactly what they teach us in Canada NOT to do. They say: Now. Always remember to put a maple leaf on EVERYTHING.. and carry a Tim Hortons cup around! and say 'eh' a lot. otherwise everyone will think you're American.. and they'll KILL YOU!!!

srsly. and I've seen it in action too. someone will stand awkwardly on the eleavtor with us.. and then we ask 'and where are you from' and they'll answer.. and then ask us in return and we'll say 'oh.. we're from canada..' and BAM! suddenly we're the most interesting nicest people ever. Endless hours of fun.

1:15 AM  
Blogger Juanita said...

It's like the YA mansion but even cooler since it's in Ireland. This is pretty freaking awesome.

3:04 AM  
OpenID imdamuffinman27 said...

I think you should know that I have completely deluded myself into believing that you are working on a sequel to 13 Little Blue Envelopes. I decided this the very second you started posting the Badger Diaries, and nothing will convince me otherwise. It is no longer merely a guess. To me, it is fact. It doesn't matter that you haven't said a thing to suppot this theory. And it doesn't matter that it makes no sense for you to start working on a sequel now, instead of years ago when you wrote the first book. And it doesn't even matter that you're still busy working on the Suite Scarlett books, and therefore have no reason to suddenly start work on a new book. My brain simply will not listen to logic. It has decided that you are writing a sequel and that's that. It has even invented a very special "Maureen's writing a sequel to 13 Little Blue Envelopes" dance. I have done this dance several times now. Frankly, I'm not sure how my fragile psyche will respond, should it learn that this dancing has been in vain. Which brings us to the conclusion that you simply must write the book, whether you want to or not. Resistance is futile.

5:29 AM  
Blogger Kimber Alice said...

I can only sit here, hoping that your sekrit is that you are a) writing a sequel to 13 Little Blue Envelopes, or b) you know something about the opening date of the ABBA museum.

6:10 AM  
Anonymous Allie~XD said...

That is sooo cool! I want to go to a castle in Ireland!!! Have fun!!! It'll be like the YA author mansion.
And for the sekrit...hm... my guess is that you are all writing an anthology (idk if thats wut it's called) of short stories. about zombies vs. unicorns!!!

7:29 AM  
Blogger Little Willow said...

All of those writers in one castle . . . Make sure to invite Mary Shelley and Percy.

8:23 AM  
Blogger Jennifer Lynn Barnes said...

Yay for Writing Castle! I am excited. And a bit terrified of Irish Sarah and her wimples.

9:06 AM  
Anonymous aciofun said...

perhaps the ten YA authors will perform hamlet on unicycles in said scottish castle? heehee.
going on a worldwide book tour?COING OUT WITH A SEQUEL TO ONE OF YOUR BRILLIANT BOOKS?! Giving away an advance reader's copy of scarlett fver? i hope so.

12:50 AM  
Anonymous acciofun said...

also, does maureen have a picture of napkin biff?

12:52 AM  
Anonymous Kati said...

:D Something to do with Trikes?


3:47 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Is it okay to add Maureen as a friend on Facebook? Is that socially acceptable? Someone tell me that it is socially acceptable.
...Okay, I'm doing it anyway.

5:22 AM  
Blogger Marvelous Maggie said...

I think that imdamuffinman27's theory makes perfect sense! YOU HAVE TO MAKE A SEQUEL TO 13 LITTLE BLUE ENVELOPES! It only makes sense. I need more Keith!

If you tell us no now then all of our hopes and dreams will be crushed. CRUSHED, MAUREEN. And how could you do that to us?!

I don't know about everyone else, but I will cry myself to sleep EVERY NIGHT if say that a sequel to 13 Little Blue Envelopes is not the SEKRIT PROJECT.

No pressure though.


5:44 AM  
Anonymous SarahE said...

OoooooooooOOOOOOOOOoooooooooooooooh. Such wonderful tidings of joy and happiness. This sounds so exciting, and I want to be kidnapped and join in your YA Irish-castle-ing. And these SEKRIT things have to stop. I'm going insane coming up with what possible SEKRIT things could be in the midst of occuring...I'd like to say I support imdamuffinman27 in this. But I shall not raise my hopes. Too much.

Thank you so much for this blog, I really cannot express to you how much I needed it. My brain was about to spontaneously combust/destory itself from the inside out. By means of poison. Seriously. Perfect Blog Timing. Me Loves MJ. :)

7:22 AM  
Anonymous Pam said...

Be sure to read Monday, 9 Feb's DILBERT (badger-related) comic strip.

I think you'll get a kick out of it. It could happen! I've had similar things happen to me.

11:48 AM  
Blogger Erin said...

my sekrit: a bunch of my friends told a bunch of people that im going out with my friend lars...but sekritly...i want to be.

sekritly, i wish that the way you say 'sekrit' sounded different than the way you say 'secret'...because that is how secret is spelled in my head...s-e-k-r-i-t.

4:21 AM  
Anonymous JK said...

Hahahaha. You have amazing travel hints. Also a hint. DOn't leave for London with 3 books and come back with 20. It can get kind of heavy. (But so worth it)

3:55 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

thats an odd place for a phone jack, i must say. lol, that must have been an experience. i hope Scarlett Fever comes out soon!!! i cant wait!! i <3 Suite Scarlett

4:56 AM  

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