Feature Story

Elevating East Coast voices

Whitney Moran (’08) helps bring Atlantic Canadian literature to life
By: Renée Belliveau (‘17)

As managing editor of Nimbus Publishing and Vagrant Press in Halifax, NS, Whitney Moran guides authors through the key stages of publishing a book.

“So much of the job is relationship building,” says Moran. “It’s a lot of conversations with authors at different stages of the process.”

It’s a job that requires empathy and a meticulous eye for detail, qualities Moran cultivated during her time at Mount Allison.

Originally from Yarmouth, NS, Moran planned to become a teacher, but soon discovered her passion for English.

“I just wanted to spend as much time talking about literature as possible,” she says.

As a first-generation student, Moran initially found her transition to university life intimidating. However, she quickly discovered that her professors were genuinely invested in her academic growth and eager to see her succeed. While several professors left a lasting impact, she says it was Dr. Deborah Wills’ creative writing seminar that best prepared her for her eventual career.

“That was really what prepared me to become an editor,” she says, adding that learning to critique other people’s work and receiving critique in turn was a formative experience. “It really trains you to articulate what’s working and what isn’t working, and to look for the piece’s potential.”

Reviewing submissions, Moran says she isn’t looking for perfection — she’s looking for potential.

“People aren’t sending you finished manuscripts. They’re sending their manuscript as far as they can take it, and they really need another set of eyes at that point. As difficult as I found critiquing other people’s work and receiving critique, it was a great learning experience.”

After graduation, Moran took a gap year before pursuing a Master of Arts in English at Wilfrid Laurier University in Waterloo, ON. She eventually returned to Nova Scotia and joined the Nimbus team in 2012, launching a career she had never imagined for herself but which ultimately proved to be the perfect fit.

“I didn’t find my way here on purpose,” she says. “It just sort of worked out that the vigorous academic standards, the generosity and attention of the professors, and the wide range of courses created this perfect environment for a growing editor. Mount A really felt like a place where I was allowed to finally figure out who I was.”

With more than 50 titles per year, Nimbus is the largest English-language publisher east of Toronto. In 2017, it was named one of the fastest growing publishers in North America by Publishers Weekly, and subsequently doubled its output — until the pandemic. Yet, despite the challenges, it also brought an unexpected positive shift for book publishers and sellers, who saw a renewed interest in books and heightened support for local businesses.

“It’s heartening to see people are still spending their money on books,” says Moran. “So many people supported local publishing and local bookstores during the pandemic, and I really hope that continues because it’s such an important part of every community.”

As a platform for regional stories, Nimbus plays an important role in amplifying Atlantic Canadian narratives, an endeavour Moran sees as increasingly vital, especially as larger corporations prioritize international content over Canadian voices. She hopes that Nimbus continues to highlight Atlantic Canadian experiences, in all of its nuance.

“Our core mandate has always been to share Atlantic Canadian stories, but what that means is constantly changing, and that’s something that we’re trying to showcase — that it’s not homogeneous. It’s not a singular voice,” she says. “There are many cultures [in the Maritimes], and we could always do a better job, but we want to reflect the realities of lived experiences here, and make sure that our stories are available not only for locals, but for people everywhere.”

An important part of that mission is nurturing new voices as well.

“We’re trying to create a legacy and make sure that we’re always a home for new authors,” says Moran. “We just want to be a safe and supportive environment for people who are entering the publishing landscape, because it can be really intimidating.”

Being a small, independent publisher comes with its challenges, but also has its perks. For Moran, it’s the people.

“We have an incredible team,” she says. “As hard as the job is, I really feel lucky to be able to do what I do. I’ve met so many incredible people over the years and I don’t take that lightly. When I look back on it all, it feels like there’s an element of fate involved in a lot of it, and I’m grateful.”