SCBWI night with special guest, Margaret Hamilton, AM

Hughenden Hotel, Woollahra

6-7pm Monday June 24, 2013

Publisher, editor, bookseller and writer, Margaret Hamilton is acclaimed in Australia and internationally for high-quality children's books. She is today a publishing consultant, picture book consultant, editor and the founder of Pinerolo: the Children’s Book Cottage, Blackheath. At Pinerolo, Margaret runs the Illustrator in Residence Mentorship program funded by CAL, arranges exhibitions, picture book workshops and the sale of original illustrations. She brings people, authors and illustrators together in an inspiring environment.

Margaret wasn’t a reader as a kid but she did have a rich uncle who supplied her with comics. That was about it. In high school, she read the books she was supposed to, which she didn’t enjoy.

SCBWI meeting 24th June 2013 013.jpg

Her first job was at Parramatta City Library, where she stayed for eleven years and studied for six years to be a qualified children’s librarian. It was there that Margaret began to love books and interacting with kids. A huge influence on her was the very wonderful, Maurice Saxby, one of Australia’s foremost experts on children’s literature and the first national president of the CBCA. After a short break at home (where she taught herself to play the piano, no less), she was placed in charge of the kids’ section of a bookstore and got a glimpse at the commercial side of publishing, as well as having the chance to meet loads of authors and illustrators. Shortly after, she was offered a job in a publishing house where she eventually became Publishing Director of Hodder & Stoughton Australia for a wide range of books.  

In 1987, she and her husband Max, established their own publishing company, Margaret Hamilton Books, where their motto was, ‘Children deserve the best of everything, especially books.’ For 10 years they produced high quality, much-loved and awarded books before becoming a division of Scholastic Australia.

Some of her beautiful publications are, Where Does Thursday Go? By Janeen Brian and Stephen Michael King, My Dog by John Heffernan and Andrew McLean and she is proud to have discovered the lyrical genius of Glenda Millard in her first book, Unplugged, illustrated by Dee Huxley. She is also applauded both here and overseas for dealing with more serious subjects, like death in The Very Best of Friends by Margaret Wild and Julie Vivas.

In 2001, Margaret ‘retired’ and moved to Blackheath on a property with a vacant cottage where she began Pinerolo, continued to consult and now is dabbling in picture books of her own.

For more information go to or contact them on 024787 8492 or

A brief summary of questions Margaret answered:

What do you need to create a good picture book?

An original idea or slant, with a strong beginning, a middle that leads to a ‘crisis’ and a cosy, satisfying end. Write in your best language. Don’t divide your text into pages and leave your name and title at the top. 

What is your advice for submitting a PB?

Don’t give directions for illustrations. You want the illustrator’s first artistic and gut reaction to a text. Do not send text with illustrations. The publisher will choose.

What is the role of an editor of a PB?

Generally, texts will be shortened. The drawings often will reduce the need for some of the text.

Why does it take so long to get a response to PB submission?

There is so much to think about before a publisher can offer a contract…such as matching the text to the perfect illustrator (then hoping they’ll be free), thinking of design, lay out etc….there is so much more than just the text for a PB. 

What advice does she have for illustrators who are designers? Sometimes illustrators do design their own books, eg Stephen Michael King.

Is it okay to submit a rhyming text?

Yes, but read it aloud and make sure it flows effortlessly and doesn’t feel forced.

What is your opinion on submitting via an agent or as an unsolicited submission?

Margaret has always dealt directly with the author. 

Can we submit to more than one publisher at a time?

Margaret believes it is simple etiquette to submit to only one publisher at a time. She did not consider a work she was sent if it was also being considered by other publishers.  

It was a true delight to have such a wonderfully experienced and passionate publisher of some of Australia’s favourite kids’ books at our meeting. Thank you, Margaret!