Don’t Give Up Your Author Dreams

When I was seven years-old I decided I was going to be a writer. When I was a teen bookworm and the most uncool girl in school, I realized that the type of writer I wanted to be was an author. I wanted to change the world with my words.

But life had other plans for me. Becoming an author is hard. Writing a book is just the start. A first book is rarely ready for publication, and it rarely earns instant income. I found myself working in insurance, which was as far away from my dreams as I could possibly get. I spent the next fifteen years or so trying to find my way back to my chosen career and in 2009 my young adult novel, Letters to Leonardo was published by Walker Books Australia, and I felt like I’d finally made it. Readers wrote to me that they loved my book. I received some very nice royalties and a lot of great reviews.

But Letters to Leonardo wasn’t published outside Australia and my dreams of reaching readers all over the world with this book didn’t eventuate.

But out of all the books I have written in the last twenty years, Letters to Leonardo is one that’s close to my heart. Matt’s story was inspired by something that really happened. His mother was based on a real person I knew, and some of the events in the story actually happened. I couldn’t let his story finish there. In the back of my mind I always felt that the journey for Letters to Leonardo wasn’t over yet.

Jump to January this year, and I was on a writer’s retreat with dear friends and fellow writers and illustrators, Edna Cabcabin Moran and Laura Elliott in the USA. Both of them had read Letters to Leonardo. Both of them wanted to see it published outside Australia. Both of them believed in Matt and his story. Edna suggested I send the manuscript to US publisher, Mazo Publishers who republish books like Letters to Leonardo.

I worked on the manuscript incorporating some of the skills I’d acquired in the last ten years.  I didn’t change the essence of the story, but I worked on the characters and events.

I submitted the manuscript to Mazo Publishers via their online form, and a month later I had a contract. They have been so wonderful to work with, so enthusiastic about Letters to Leonardo, so dedicated to getting Matt’s story out into the hands of a whole new generation of readers. And  I’ve  been  so  fortunate  to  have  my  dear  friend  and  talented  creator, Tania McCartney  design  this  cover, which I love so much.

Letters to Leonardo is now available in Australia again. It’s also available in the US, UK and other parts of the world at the publisher’s website and in bookstores.

If you have a story you believe in, and being an author is all you’ve ever wanted, don’t give up. It took me ten years to first publication in Australia and another ten to get Letters to Leonardo out into the wider world. But it has been an amazing journey and I’ve learnt so much along the way. And I’ve had letters from readers telling me how my book really did change their life.

I’d love to hear your stories about how perseverance and love for your story has led to publication. Feel free to share in the comments section of this post.

Happy writing 🙂


Letters to Leonardo is the story of a boy who receives a fifteenth birthday card from the mother he thought was dead. He decides to look for her and find out why she has been absent from his life, and why his father lied to him about her death. Matt helps make sense of his feelings of betrayal and confusion by writing to his dead idol, Leonardo da Vinci. But bringing his mother back into his life doesn’t have the outcome he expected.

It can be purchased direct from the publisher, Mazo Publishers and from bookstores.


Today I discovered there are 103 steps up to my apartment. I thought I’d try and get a bit fitter while I’m here so I have decided not to use the lifts unless I’m completely exhausted or fully laden with shopping.

As part of this new fitness regime, I’m also trying to do a bit of light weight lifting.

Being a creative kind of person I decided to improvise and buy a couple of cans of baked beans. So the cans on this blog post are not symbols of an impoverished writer, nor are they a sign of an obsession with former Australian test cricketer Shane Warne who is well know for being partial to baked beans. My baked bean cans are simply a sign of a writer being resourceful.

And I have been resourceful in so many other ways today. I have joined up my plotting balloons with arrows and worked out the threads of the first book in the series.

I am also pleased to report that I have the first 500 words down on paper. I knew there would be no stopping me once I gave Lia free rein to tell her story.

Today has been so productive that I even fitted in all the mundane things like washing the clothes, and buying a new printer cartridge.

And I managed to take a little time out to have lunch with friend and Brisbane writer, Maree Kimberley… a writer still has to eat after all:-)

Happy writing.




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:-)


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:-)


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.




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:-)


Letters to Leonardo BLOG TOUR – DAY FIVE – This one is for YA lovers


We had so much fun today at Mabel’s blog talking about the research process.

Tomorrow, we’ve got something a little different planned. We’re not going to be talking about THE BOOK. We’re going to be discussing dreams and writing.

Hope you’ll join us at where we’ll be talking to the lovely and talented Vanessa Barneveld.

Hope to see you there.

Dee and Matt:-)


Matt and I had such a blast at Sally Murphy’s place

Tomorrow, we’re off down south to Spinning Pearls where we’re going to be answering some really curly questions. You’ll find us at

Hope to see you there.

Dee and Matt:-)



I can’t believe it’s that time already – Matt can’t believe it either.

Tomorrow, we hop on our Cyber Plane and jet off to visit Sally Murphy in WA. We’re going to be talking to Sally about how to promote your story online (like at blog tours and things).

It’s going to be a fun-filled fortnight of interviews, chats, launches, interactive reading and writing activities and all sorts of fun stuff related to the creation and writing of Letters to Leonardo.

Here’s where we’re going:

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

29th June 2009               
An author interview on the writing process – covering things like inspiration and perspective
30th June 2009   
Use of mentors in YA fiction, and Leonardo da Vinci’s involvement in the book
1st July 2009                 Cyber launch including cross to Robyn Opie’s blog – hurdles overcome on the way to publication.
2nd July 2009      
How the author’s life paralleled Matt’s – her growing obsession with Leonardo da Vinci
3rd July  2009       
Working with a publisher and the editing process
4th July  2009       
Interview with the elusive Matt Hudson at Sandy Fussell’s blog. Sandy is the author of the Samurai Kids series
5th July 2009         
Class writing activities based on Letters to Leonardo – themes in the book
6th July 2009         
Tips 4 young writers on how Letters to Leonardo was written – how the author turned fact into fiction
7th July 2009          
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.     

Join us tomorrow at

Look forward to seeing you there.

Dee and Matt:-)


Note to self, do blog updates first thing in the morning, otherwise time runs away from you and you find it has been more than a week since your last post – and you think to yourself, how did that happen? I’m sure it was only yesterday that I last posted on my blog.

But a lot has been achieved in that week.

  • Word search is done and ready to upload
  • Sneak Peek is done and ready to upload
  • Movie Book preview is ready to upload
  • YA reviewers have their books and are reading as we ‘speak’
  • Launcher piece organised and ready to roll
  • Five Fast Facts

Yakes, there’s still lots to do:

  • Article about making your own movie book preview
  • Piece where Matt interviews me
  • Tips for young writers on starting your story
  • Classroom writing activity
  • Audio
  • Myspace & Teacher Tube

Just as well, I have ALL day tomorrow to get this sorted – better glue myself to my desk.

Why the urgency to get all this done?

Because my BLOG TOUR starts next Wednesday and I still have stuff to do for that.

Better get a wriggle on.