letterstoleonardolrgI was lucky enough to be invited to launch “Letters to Leonardo” at the Byron Bay Writer’s Festival on the weekend.

And writers from all over Australia were there to help me celebrate.

Byron Bay Writer's festival launch
Byron Bay Writer’s festival launch

It struck me all over again how wonderfully supportive children’s writers are. Even though Thomas Keneally was in conversation in a distant marquee, a good crowd gathered to help Matt and I make our way in the world.

I was thrilled to have Anna Fienberg launching my book

I was thrilled to have Anna Fienberg launching "Letters to Leonardo".


I was thrilled to have Letters to Leonardo launched by hugely popular children’s author and lovely person, Anna Fienberg, who talked at length about all the things she loved about Letters to Leonardo. (And happened to mention that she thought that the ending was ‘perfect’) *grin*.

Anna’s signing queue at the festival was massive and it truly made me appreciate the time she took out from her busy schedule to read and launch my book.




Local author Tristan Bancks, who was also in great demand at the festival, took time out from his writing, workshops, author presentations, deadlines and his gorgeous young family to give me his support.

Local author Tristan Bancks took time out from his busy schedule to be at my launch.

Local author Tristan Bancks took time out from his busy schedule to be at my launch.

Dee and Jules Nickerson

Jules Nickerson and her lovely family came all the way from Brisbane for the day.

It was great to see two of my Queensland writing buddies, Julie Nickerson and Angela Sunde and their families who travelled all the way to Byron just for my launch. So easy to do my presentation with their smiling faces beaming at me from the crowd.

And what a thrill it was to meet other writers from around Australia who I had never met, but had followed my blog tour and cyber launch.

 The Byron Bay Festival organisers were wonderfully supportive in helping me arrange my launch, and I’d like to thank Jeni Caffin and Sarah Ma for all their hard work.

 Thanks also to my wonderful friend Julie (we’ve been friends since we were 12), and her husband Richard who made me so welcome in their Byron Bay home.

The Byron Bay festival was attended by thousands of people and was a very casual friendly affair; with around 100 great writers and presenters. What an amazing experience to wander from marquee to marquee, listening to these people talk.

Dee on stageMy other excitement for the day occurred in the book marquee, when one of the sales people yelled to another, “Do you know where Dee White’s book is?” To which I piped up, “I’m Dee White, and my book is over there.” *grin*.

My launch was on kid’s day, and it was fantastic to see all the young readers and aspiring writers around. (And they seemed to enjoy the ‘thank you for coming to my launch’ Crunchie bars at my launch).


 The Crunchie bars were very popular at my launch.

The Crunchie bars were very popular at my launch. 


Thanks to everyone involved for making my Byron Bay Letters to Leonardo launch an unforgettable experience.

Byron Bay locals

  Some Byron Bay locals:-)


letterstoleonardolrgUS blogger, Jennifer Brown has now posted her interview at http://www.JenniferBrownYA.com

In case you’ve missed any part of the tour, here’s where we’ve been already:

24th June 2009             http://sallymurphy.blogspot.com        
Dee and Matt talk about promoting Letters to Leonardo online.
25th June 2009             http://spinningpearls.blogspot.com     
Author interview
26th June 2009             http://thebookchook.blogspot.com    
How art has been used in Letters to Leonardo – with some teaching activities included.
27th June 2009             http://belka37.blogspot.com
The research process involved in writing Letters to Leonardo           
28th June 2009             http://weloveya.wordpress.com
Guest blogger – talking with Vanessa Barneveld – interactive discussion about dreams and writing

29th June 2009             http://www.livejournal.com/users/orangedale            
An author interview on the writing process – covering things like inspiration and perspective
30th June 2009             http://www.letshavewords.blogspot.com
Use of mentors in YA fiction, and Leonardo da Vinci’s involvement in the book
1st July 2009                 Cyber launch https://deescribewriting.wordpress.com including cross to Robyn Opie’s blog http://robynopie.blogspot.com – hurdles overcome on the way to publication.
2nd July 2009                http://persnicketysnark.blogspot.com
How the author’s life paralleled Matt’s – her growing obsession with Leonardo da Vinci
3rd July  2009                 http://bjcullen.blogspot.com
Working with a publisher and the editing process
4th July  2009                 http://sandyfussell.blogspot.com
Interview with the elusive Matt Hudson at Sandy Fussell’s blog. Sandy is the author of the Samurai Kids series
5th July 2009                   http://teacherswritinghelper.wordpress.com
Class writing activities based on Letters to Leonardo – themes in the book
6th July 2009                   http://tips4youngwriters.wordpress.com
Tips 4 young writers on how Letters to Leonardo was written – how the author turned fact into fiction
7th July 2009                    http://www.JenniferBrownYA.com
An overseas stop before heading home – USA blogger Jennifer Brown talks to Dee about bipolar themes in the story and the affect on teenagers of having a family member with a  mental illness.   

Thanks so much for joining the tour and dropping in to say, ‘Hi.’

Bye for now.

Catch you in Cyber Space.

Dee and Matt:-)

LETTERS TO LEONARDO BLOG TOUR – FINAL DAY – Thanks for your patience with the time delay for our overseas host

As you know, we’ve jetsetted off to the USA today and they are ten hours behind Australia, so thanks for your patience.

When Jen posts her blog at http://www.JenniferBrownYA.com you’ll see that it was worth the wait.

See you in the US.

Dee and Matt:-)


letterstoleonardolrgMatt and I are sad to report that today is the final day of our 14 day blog tour.

We’re visiting US blogger Jennifer Brown to talk about bipolar themes in the story and the affect on teenagers of having a family member with a mental illness.

 Hope you can join us on our final day at http://www.JenniferBrownYA.com

Catch you in Cyber Space.

Dee and Matt:-)


Sadly, we’re coming to the end of our  hectic but fabulous Letters to Leonardo blog tour. We have been everywhere (well almost). Tomorrow, we’re off to the USA so it might take a bit longer for the post to appear due to the time difference.

We’re going to be talking about bipolar themes in the story and the affect on teenagers of having a family member with a mental illness.

Hope you can join us at http://www.JenniferBrownYA.com

Dee and Matt:-)


letterstoleonardolrgSeeing as it’s Cyber Launch day, Matt Hudson has decided to put in an appearance. He doesn’t want to be in the spotlight, but he said he has a few questions for me, and he doesn’t mind if I share his questions and my answers with you. Matt wanted to talk about how Leonardo da Vinci’s paintings have been used in Letters to Leonardo.

MATT:       Why did you think that Leonardo da Vinci would be a good person to help me tell my story?


DEE:          Even though you two lived over 500 years apart, Leonardo was a lot like you, Matt.

MATT:       How?

DEE:          You both got taken away from your Mum’s at a young age, you both seek truth, you’re both sensitive – and you’re both perfectionists.

MATT:       I guess you’re right. Anything else?

DEE:          Your art – it was a strong connection between the two of you – and it linked you to your mother as well.

MATT:       You used Leonardo’s paintings a lot throughout the book. Why do you think people will want to know about them? Not everyone is an LDV fan like us?

DEE:         The paintings were a great way to symbolise people and events in the story. Take the Mona Lisa for example – she was an enigma, just like your mum.

MATT:       And that painting of St Jerome – you used that to show how I was feeling?

DEE:         That’s right – sometimes the emotion of the painting was a good way to show what was going on with you – without have to say “Matt’s upset” or “Matt feels bad”.

MATT:       Why did you have to tell everyone how much I loved LDV’s stuff? Why do you think it was their business anyway?

DEE:         Readers needed to understand the sort of person that you were – so they could empathise with you. Like when you talked about the Drapery Study and you said, “We all wear an outer layer to hide who we really are,” that was to help people realise how vulnerable you were.

MATT:       How does LDV connect us – you and me, I mean?

DEE:          He’s our shared obsession:-)



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 http://www.robynopie.blogspot.com), 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 http://blazingtrailers.com 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 www.blazingtrailers.com and our work was done.




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 http://robynopie.blogspot.com 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.