Dandi Daley Mackall shares some of the inspiration behind the writing of the Flipside books, including the 2017 ECPA Christian Book Award Winner, Jonah and the Fish. For a limited time, you can get Jonah and the Fish for 50% off at Tyndale.com. Sale ends 5/31/17.
So a while ago, I was engaging in my guided daydreaming, and I dreamed I died. (I warned you it’s not the typical daydream.) But I got to go to heaven. An angel stood at the gate and invited me in. “Where would you like to go, Dandi?”
Without hesitation, I said, “I’d like to see the library, please.”
The angel led me to an enormous library with shelves as far as I could see. I spent a glorious day or week or year . . . (no time in eternity) reading masterpieces of literature—Shakespeare, Tolstoy, Dickens, Emily Dickinson, as well as many Tyndale House books and even a few of my own.
But the angel must have noticed my disappointment because he asked, “What’s wrong, Dandi?”
“Nothing!” I insisted, because, after all, this was heaven. Yet I didn’t want to lie. “Okay. Don’t get me wrong. These books are fantastic. But . . . well, we have all these books down there on earth. I kind of thought you guys would have your own stuff.”
The angel grinned. “We had them first.”
Heaven had the books first? Writers do talk as if a story exists and has to be unraveled: “Aha! That’s what was wrong. They’re sisters!” “Of course! It was snowing, not raining!”
The angel motioned for me to follow. We meandered down a long hallway that grew narrower and narrower. Cobwebs draped the corners, then grew so thick I had to swipe them away to keep up. Finally, we entered a room hundreds of times larger than the library. But as I broke down cobwebs, I realized this, too, was a library. Dusty books covered shelves that rose higher than I could see. I brushed cobwebs from a book near the entry and began reading. Two pages in, I knew this book could have helped our daughter stand up to bullies in school.
The next book I picked up could have been written for my grandfather. Maybe it would have gotten through to him about Jesus’ love and forgiveness in a way I hadn’t been able to. I pulled down another book, and it didn’t take long to realize it would have changed my life.
As I read book after book, I grew angrier and angrier. When I could no longer keep it in, I screamed at the angel, “I never saw any of these books on earth! Why didn’t you send these books down to us?”
The angel’s smile faded. “We tried. But their authors wouldn’t take them.” He pointed to the book that could have helped my daughter. “That one, the author had the idea but couldn’t make herself stick with the writing.” He pointed out another book. “That one was finished. But two publishers rejected the manuscript, and the author gave up. That one was published, but nobody publicized it. And nobody read it.”
I wanted to leave, to get away from books no one could read because their authors were too lazy, or too cowardly. That’s when a book caught my eye. It said “Mackall” on the spine. I brought it down and started reading. It was that book I was always going to write but never got around to it.
I woke up.
Ephesians 2:10 says: “For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.”
For me, many of the “good things” God planned long ago are books. But God has prepared good things for all his children—taking a casserole to a neighbor, talking to someone about Christ, excelling at work, caring for family, supporting missions.
I’m so grateful to be partnering with Tyndale House on a dream project I thought of years ago. The “good thing” sat on a dusty shelf for a decade. Then I talked with Linda Howard about the idea of showing two sides of the same story and helping kids understand that there’s always more to a story. The first three books in our Flipside Stories line were released this summer.
Another book, Larger-Than-Life Lara, will always be my true dream book, with its gentle answer to bullying. I felt God’s guidance on every page and could imagine that angel sending the story my way.
I don’t want to leave this world with the good things God planned for me left undone. What better time than now to start doing the “good things” God has planned?
Dandi Daley Mackall is the award-winning author of over 450 books for children and adults. She visits countless schools, conducts writing assemblies and workshops across the United States, and presents keynote addresses at conferences and young author events. She is also a frequent guest on radio talk shows and has made dozens of appearances on TV. She has won several awards for her writing, including the Helen Keating Ott Award for Contributions to Children’s Literature, the Edgar Award, and the Mom’s Choice Award (twice!).
Dandi writes from rural Ohio, where she lives with her husband, Joe, their three children, and their horses, dogs, and cats. Visit her at DandiBooks.com.