letterstoleonardolrg1.       How long did it take to write Letters to Leonardo?

More than ten years.

2.       How many words have you put on paper from first draft to published novel?

Over 1 million.

3.       How many hours have you spent writing & rewriting Letters to Leonardo?


Around 1800 – that’s an average of about 180 hours per year.

4.       How many times has the ending changed?

At least 7

5.       Was the book always called Letters to Leonardo?

It started out as Letters to Leonardo, then during my mentorship, was changed to To the Moon and Back, and eventually Space. When I went back to writing the original story (refer article about The Writing Process on Robyn Opie’s Blog, it became Letters to Leonardo again.


Here’s the Letters to Leonardo Movie Book Preview for you to enjoy. Just click on this link.

 Here’s how we made it:

Making the Letters to Leonardo Movie Book Preview was literally ‘fun for the whole family’. My eldest son, Sam is the voice of Matt Hudson, and 10yo Nicholas is the musician – who arranged and played all the music.

We learned a lot along the way. These were the steps we followed:

  1. Look at what your story is about. We also thought about who we were making the movie preview for – who was going to watch our preview – who was going to read the book?
  2. Decide how much of the story you are going to tell in your Movie Book Preview. It needs to be just enough to intrigue viewers, but not too much – or people won’t bother reading the book. From an interest point of view, and after viewing previews at we decided we didn’t want our Movie Book preview to be any longer than 2 minutes.
  3. Next step was to write the script. You need a script so that your preview works like a story with high points and low points and things to interest people. Having started out my writing life as a playwright, I found that writing the script was lots of fun.
  4. One of the hardest parts was executing the script – bringing it to life – making it happen.
  5. Clip Art and Walker Books provided most of the pics so the visual part wasn’t too hard. We just had to work out the order of things, when to fade in and out – and how to use special effects like sepia tones.
  6. Making the writing ‘crawl’ across the pictures was time consuming but not difficult. It just involved having the same pic and having different slides and on each slide, we added more words. Each slide was saved as a JPEG file and when we put them all together it worked like an animation.
  7. The hardest part of making the movie book preview was doing the sound. Sam was happy to be Matt Hudson and Nicholas was happy to arrange and play all the music. The hard part was getting the recorded sound to a reasonable quality. If you want to avoid using sound engineers or recording studios, it’s best to keep the sound part simple and just use free downloaded music – but we didn’t discover this till too late.
  8. Having chosen to use voiceovers and our own music, we were forced to employ a sound engineer to get reasonable quality sound. (Finding someone with the same last name was pure coincidence.)
  9. Now that we had our script, our pics and our sound recordings, all that remained was to put it all together. We did this using Windows Movie Maker which was very straight forward and involved slotting the right bits into the right places on the timeline.
  10. Next we saved our movie, uploaded it to and our work was done.





Now we’re crossing to for a classroom writing activity and extension task based on the Sneak Peek first chapter of Letters to Leonardo.

You’ll also find a fun word search based on the book.

It’s back here at 12 noon for a link to the Movie Book Preview and an article on how we made it.


Dee and Matt:-)


Matt and I wanted to thank Hal, Debbie and SJ for reading Letters to Leonardo and allowing us to share their opinions with you.

We particularly appreciate the fact that it was exam time and so these young adult readers had to take time out from their studies to read the book and comment.

Thanks Hal, Debbie and SJ.

Dee and Matt:-)

TIPS FOR YOUNG WRITERS – How to get your reader’s attention and keep it!

Hope you enjoyed the Sneak Peek.

Now we cross to to talk about how to get your story started – how to hook your reader and keep them.

We’ll be back here in about 15 minutes for the first review of Letters to Leonardo by a young adult reader.

Thanks for coming:-)

Dee and Matt:-)

A FREE SNEAK PEEK at “Letters to Leonardo”

Walker Books Australia has been fantastically supportive with our blog tour and Cyber Launch and as a special treat, they’ve allowed us to upload Chapter 1 of Letters to Leonardo, so that you can read it.

Here’s the Sneak Peek first chapter: 


LtoL Chapter 1 - page 7

LtoL Chapter 1 - page 8

LtoL Chapter 1 - page 9

LtoL Chapter 1 - page 10


LtoL Chapter 1 - page 11


LtoL Chapter 1 - page 12


Extract from Letters to Leonardo

by Dee White

Available in bookshops July, 2009

ISBN: 9781921150883

Publisher: Walker Books Australia


Copyright © Dee White, 2009

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without the prior written permission of the publisher.

Matt and I hope you enjoyed Chapter 1. If you’d like to keep reading, you can buy the book at any good bookstore or online at:

Happy reading!

Dee and Matt:-)



Thanks so much for those kind words, Sue. I have just loved working with you.

Finally, the big day is here – Letters to Leonardo is being released into both the real world and the cyber world TODAY, July 1st 2009 – RIGHT NOW!

So it’s with great pleasure that I introduce you to Margaret Hamilton, who has made this day even more special by agreeing to Cyber Launch my book, Letters to Leonardo.

I was thrilled when Margaret agreed to launch my book because she has played such an important role in setting it on the road to publication. Margaret was the expert assigned to assess my manuscript at the 2008 SCBWI conference in Sydney. She read my manuscript and told me it was good enough to be published. She gave me the confidence to believe in my work, take the risk, and dare to show it to the publishing world.

Thanks Margaret:-)

Margaret Hamilton pic

Being invited to do a ‘cyber launch’ of a book brings me kicking and screaming into the 21st Century! I’ve never been known to knock back a challenge, so here I am looking another one in the face.

I’ve met Dee White only once – at the SCBWI conference in Sydney. I had been asked to do a program of half-hour publishing consultations and was allotted a very pleasant corner on the rooftop of the Hughenden, sitting in the sun on some comfortable outdoor furniture. Thank goodness it was warm and sunny and not minus four degrees as it is in Blackheath today as I write this!

 Half an hour is not long to talk to an author about their work but I quickly became intrigued by Dee’s story. From the snippets that I read I was able to see that she can write – convincingly, smoothly, with feeling. I was a little concerned that her story of a teenage boy with serious issues to deal with – so serious that he couldn’t face them head on, he had to write to a dead artist to ease the burden – might be bleak, sad and lacking a hopeful resolution. Books about teenagers have often been too serious, too bleak and have been criticised for their ‘dirty realism’ and lack of direction. Throughout my publishing career I resolved never to publish a book that did not offer the characters a way out of their predicament, however serious it was. Everybody must find someone to talk to.

So I asked Dee to tell me the rest of the story and I listened intently to her passionate retelling. By the time she had finished I knew that here was an authentic character, a believable teenage boy who would be readily recognisable to young readers. I identified with him and his family, just from Dee’s short retelling, so I knew instinctively that here was a serious publishing possibility. Matt’s story is told with an authentic voice, a real insight into his world and the issues he is fighting to come to terms with. It doesn’t shy away from the seriousness of his situation, neither does it sugar coat them. It’s realistic, gritty and life affirming. So I urged her to send it to publishers (suggesting a shortlist of some I knew).

The rest is now history, because Walker Books Australia snapped up the book and I received an excited email from Dee telling me that it was going to be published. And here it is. Nothing is so satisfying to an author (or indeed a publisher, as I have never tired of it) than opening a parcel and finding finished copies of a book you’ve sweated over, lost sleep over, had panic attacks about. You hug it, turn it over and look at the back, at the front again, smell it, flip through the pages and hug it again!

But the work is not yet finished. The promotion and selling of a new author’s book is hard work. I feel confident that Letters to Leonardo will find many readers, will be well reviewed and will lead to other books from Dee White. As a first book, this is an impressive debut and she should be very proud and encouraged to write more.

So I am excited and honoured to be asked to launch Letters to Leonardo (cyber or not!). As she begins her journey as a published writer on the sea of readers, I wish Dee smooth sailing and many more successes to come.

Margaret Hamilton AM

Thanks so much Margaret for your very kind words and for findng time in your hectic schedule to launch my book. Even though we’ve only met once, I was wondering if you were in my lounge room when I opened the parcel with my book inside – when I hugged it, turned it over and look ed at the back, at the front again, smelled it, flipped through the pages and hugged it again

After spending more than ten years writing “Letters to Leonardo”, it’s hard to believe that today it goes on bookshelves in stores all over the country – today my book is not just piles of paper stuck away in a filing cabinet drawer – it is a real book available for readers to buy and enjoy.

So as we continue the Cyber Launch, it’s time to fill up your glass with cyber bubbles and cross to Robyn Opie’s blog where you’ll find out where the ideas and characters for Letters to Leonardo came from – and obstacles on the road to publication.

See you there at 10.15 (oz time)  – oops, that’s now! Gotta fly. Catch up with you at Robyn’s place.



j0384809Right from the start, every single person at Walker Books Australia (our publishers) has been fantastic – friendly, helpful, enthusiastic – so great to work with.

But there’s one person who we worked really closely with over the last twelve months – Senior Editor – and all round patient, kind and wonderful person, Sue Whiting.

Sue helped Matt to discover his voice – and Dee find out that she used some words far too many times – especially the word, ‘weird’ – weird huh?

We are so delighted to have Sue here today to talk about Letters to Leonardo and the journey we have all taken together.

And on this special occasion, Sue has swapped her editor’s hat for a party hat. Over to you, Sue.


I first heard of Letters to Leonardo by chance. I was sitting opposite Dee at the SCBWI conference dinner at the Hughenden Hotel in Sydney. She was excitedly talking to the person beside her about the manuscript. The title was intriguing. Dee’s enthusiasm was palpable. Curious to know more, I asked Dee to tell me about it. I was so fascinated by the concept behind the manuscript, that before we even received our entrées, I had invited her to submit it to Walker Books. And when a number of weeks later, I finally sat down to read it, I was not disappointed. Far from it.

Congratulations, Dee. Letters to Leonardo is a wonderful debut YA novel and you should be enormously proud of yourself. You have worked so hard, not only in the last twelve months or so as you slogged through the various rounds of edits, but over the many long years prior that you toiled over and persisted with the manuscript. Your efforts have certainly paid off.

Letters to Leonardo is a unique tale, beautifully written. It’s poignant. It’s compelling. It packs a powerful punch. It will take readers on an emotive journey and it is impossible not to be moved by the experience.

I wish you and Letters to Leonardo every success, Dee.

Sue Whiting

Senior Editor

Walker Books Australia


WELCOME TO OUR CYBER LAUNCH – Letters to Leonardo is about to spread its wings

letterstoleonardolrgSeeing as today is such an important occasion – Cyber Launch day – and the day that Letters to Leonardo is released, I thought I’d do something really fancy and voice record my introduction.

But of course technology doesn’t always co-operate – and the sound was ‘fuzzy’ to say the least – we even had clinking glasses SFX – but they sounded pretty bad too – sort of like someone running over a stack of empty bottles – not pleasant.

So it’s back to the tried and true – words on a page – which really, being a writer, I’m more comfortable with anyway.


I want to start by saying how fantastic it is to have you at my launch – we’re in for a really big day.


Please feel free to leave comments. I’m going to be online all day (ISP providers permitting) to answer your questions and respond to your comments, so please don’t be shy about leaving me a message.

Also, if you are an author, illustrator, online bookstore or reviewer and would like to be included on my blogroll, please leave your URL.


We kick off at 10.00am with a word from my wonderful Editor, Sue Whiting, who is going to talk about how the whole process of publishing Letters to Leonardo got started.

It’s an honour to have Margaret Hamilton here today and she is going to be Cyber Launching the book at 10.15am, so charge your glasses and get those cyber bubbles happening.

Also planned are crosses to Robyn Opie’s blog (that’s a blog tour stop) and to for classroom activities and tasks. Young writers can get tips at http://tips4youngwriters.wordpress.comand there will be reviews by YA readers.

To celebrate the release of Letters to Leonardo, Walker Books has kindly allowed me to download a 1st chapter Sneak Peek and that will be available at 10.30am.

There’s a Letters to Leonardo word search, a movie book preview – and so much more.

100_0804The elusive Matt Hudson will even be appearing in public to interview me about how I used Leonardo da Vinci’s paintings to tell Matt’s story.

So, thanks for coming, hope you enjoy the day – and don’t forget to leave your comments.

Dee and Matt:-)