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Jackie and Me: Thoughts and Reflections on Blue Whale Press

Callie asked me to write a few words regarding my thoughts about Blue Whale Press’s future as well as why I recommended Jackie Kruzie to be my replacement. Before I get started, I’d like to say that it has been an honor for Steve and me to bring Blue Whale Press up to this point. We are extremely proud of our little press, and even more proud of the books we’ve produced and the wonderful authors and illustrators who entrusted their precious work to us. We are grateful for each and every author and illustrator and the relationships we have built with them. Knowing that Blue Whale Press will live on as an imprint of Clear Fork Publishing under the fine guidance of Callie Metler and Jackie Kruzie makes this difficult life choice much more palatable.

As for Blue Whale Press’s future, we would love to see Blue Whale Press continue to grow. After that, our wish for Blue Whale Press is that it will continue to publish quality books that have so much staying power that they have potential to one day be called a classic. I believe Blue Whale Press books will continue to entertain, inspire, and educate readers of all ages. From the beginning, one of our dreams was to launch authors and illustrators into long-lasting careers that they love and are proud of. We continue to want that for Blue Whale Press authors and illustrators. And we’d love to see our vision of many Blue Whale Press books becoming award winners on best-sellers lists.

Now, onto Ms. Kruzie and some of the reasons I’m excited to pass the Blue Whale baton to her:

I first met Jackie in 2015 at a North Texas SCBWI event. We became online friends in the

writing community that same day. Jackie later became the North Texas regional advisor from 2016 to 2019. During this time, I had the pleasure of spending more time with her. Jackie’s enthusiasm for all things kid lit was contagious. I feel like I really started to know Jackie when she invited me to be on the conference faculty in the fall of 2018, and we were afforded many great conversations. Our kid lit and personal conversations flow as naturally as a river. Our path didn’t end with SCBWI. Unknowingly, fate brought us closer together when Steve and I bought a house in the same small rural area that Jackie lives in. Long rides with Jackie to SCBWI events and our other visits we had deepened my appreciation for Jackie’s knowledge of children’s literature and especially picture books. I will always remember an SCBWI presentation Jackie did about writing jacket flap copy and learning to write pitches. It was fabulous. But moving to our small town also brought me deeper into Jackie’s world where I discovered she was the town library’s librarian and director. However, the most library fun for me was seeing her in action with the kids during her weekly reading time and her summer programs. Jackie is one smart cookie. She knows story structure and what makes a good story. She has an excellent grasp on the relationship between text and illustrations. She understands what appeals to picture-book-age children as well as older children. She has a good business sense. In addition, she possesses something I would always wish for a Blue Whale Press acquisitions editor . . . she is an absolute pleasure to work with. Of course, I could continue to sing the praises of my friend. However, I think it only fair that you get a chance to hear directly from her. I am happy to introduce the incoming Blue Whale Press acquisition editor, Jackie Kruzie.

Thank you for the glowing remarks Alayne! It truly has been a pleasure getting to know Alayne both personally and professionally. I have learned so much from her already and will continue to do so as she guides me in filling her shoes at Blue Whale Press.

My writing journey began many years ago as an elementary student. My school held an annual Young Author’s Conference, and it was here I developed a love for writing that never left. Years later, as a young mom, I was sitting on the floor with my son in my lap reading Salina Yoon’s board book Halloween. I was enchanted by this novelty book and wondered how it came to be. What was the process from creation to publication to the shelf of the bookstore? This book prompted my first glimpse into the kid lit world. I purchased the book Writing for Children and Teenagers and signed up for the Institute of Children’s Literature. Though I completed all my ICL courses, it would be another ten years before the kid lit world found me again.

During those years, I became the mother to 4 more children, which meant I was a permanent fixture at my local library’s Storytime. The children’s librarian was phenomenal! She engaged the kids with songs, puppets, and books that were exciting to read aloud. I was charmed by these weekly Storytime events and found myself, once again, wondering how it came to be. What was the process from book selection to planning activities to presenting them flawlessly to a room full of rambunctious toddlers? My curiosity led me to pursue my Master of Library Science.

My degree was put on hold for a time as my family moved to the Dallas area. I filled my time by writing picture book manuscripts. I submitted a few here and there; all which were rejected. In my impatience, I decided to investigate self-publication. I was on one site when an ad popped up for the Society of Children’s Book Writer’s and Illustrators. I signed up and attended my first meeting. I was nervous, but determined, and when the Regional Advisor asked if anyone would be willing to volunteer my hand rose on its own volition. This was my official step into the kidlit world. I eventually worked my way through the ranks to become my chapter’s Regional Advisor all the while attending grad school in pursuit of my MLS. It was a busy few years!

With my degree in hand, I became a children’s librarian. I have had the opportunity to work in both public and school libraries, which has given me insight into what pulls a young reader into a story. This “insider view” coupled with courses through ICL, SCBWI, Making Picture Book Magic, and the treasure trove of webinars and advice from the many authors and illustrator friends I have made along the way, I feel prepared for my new role as the Acquisitions Editor for Blue Whale Press.

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