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Basement Medicine

The student-run community news site of Vermont State University - Johnson

Basement Medicine

The student-run community news site of Vermont State University - Johnson

Basement Medicine

A writer at heart

Erika+Nichols-Frazer+holding+her+books%2C+Feed+Me+and+Staring+Too+Closely
Gunter Kleist
Erika Nichols-Frazer holding her books, Feed Me and Staring Too Closely

Erika Nichols-Frazer is the Writing and Humanities Development Coordinator in Academic Support and TRiO for VTSU- Johnson.

What did it feel like when you published your first book?
I was nervous and excited. It’s very vulnerable to write a book. Mine was a memoir, so it was deeply personal. I was a little afraid of how people would react to it, but it felt like a huge accomplishment. It was very rewarding to get my story out there. One of the best parts has been people connecting to me, reaching out to me, telling me that my story meant something to them, or that they were related to it. That’s been really rewarding and fulfilling.

What were you doing right before you came to Johnson?
I was a newspaper reporter at the small-town newspaper The Valley Reporter, in Waitsfield. I was there for two years. I was also an editor. I’ve edited for small presses and had my own freelance business.

What was your freelance business? Were you also publishing?
I was an independent editor. People writing a book would come to me for help developing their stories. I edited several books, including… my friend’s book, Now I Speak by Anna Nasset, which I worked on all last year with her. It’s a beautiful memoir about her survival story having been stalked for ten years. My editing business is called Good Wolf Literary Service. I’ve edited a number of different projects with folks to get their book to publication.

What made you decide to come to Johnson and start working in Academic Support?
I love working with students and I love helping students express their voices. The opportunity to work one-on-one with students of all backgrounds to better express their ideas and their stories was really appealing to me. [I] love working in the academic space. I love to learn, and being around other people who are learning and pushing themselves and stepping out of their comfort zones. It’s really exciting to me.

What genre is your favorite to write?
I’d say literary fiction, which includes short stories and longer forms such as novels. My MFA is from Bennington Writing Seminars, from Bennington College, and that is in fiction. That’s often what I gravitate towards, but I also really love writing poetry and personal essays.

Which genre is your favorite to read?
That’s a good question. I read a little bit of everything, but I tend to gravitate towards novels and short stories the most. I usually am reading multiple books at a time.

How did you get into writing?
I have always loved to write. From the time I learned how to read and write, I always really loved stories and it was kind of an escape for me. Growing up, I struggled with mental health issues with bipolar disorder and for me, even when I was depressed or sad, I could pick up a book and get lost in that world. I started creating my own stories and I’ve been writing ever since. In high school, it was a lot of poetry, in college I studied poetry and fiction, and then I got into memoirs as well. I’ve always written a lot.

What would your last meal be?
I would have artichokes and hollandaise sauce, which is one of my favorite things. I have a chapter called Hollandaise Sauce in my book. It’s my last meal so I can get as indulgent as I want. Potatoes au gratin, that’s one of my favorites. And probably seitan. I’m a vegetarian, so it’s something I eat a lot.

What’s the worst piece of advice you’ve ever gotten?
I have to say it’s from my mother. Suck it up and we don’t talk about feelings. Those are some of the worst pieces of advice my mother has ever given me. And she doesn’t talk about feelings, which is part of why I felt I needed to write my memoir.

Do you have any hidden talents?
I’m a pretty decent hockey player. I actually went to Europe in a boys hockey team in high school, I was the only girl. And it might not be hidden, but I’m also a good snowboarder.

What do you like about it?
It’s so freeing. It’s individual, but you also can do it with friends, and you’re able to explore. I love riding in the woods, for instance. Just floating on powder, it just feels like flying to me. It’s like a zen space where I can tune out other thoughts, play music in my head, and fly down the snow.

Have you played competitively?
Not snowboarding. I always wanted snowboarding to be the thing that I did just for fun. I played growing up. I played soccer, hockey, softball and a little bit of tennis, so snowboarding was just for me. My dad always encouraged me to compete, but I wasn’t interested in that. I just wanted that to be my thing for fun with friends.

Talk to me about what it was like writing your first book. What was it about? What was that process like?
My first book was a memoir called Feed Me: A Story of Food, Love, and Mental Illness. It has to do with learning to cope with my bipolar disorder, the eating disorder I had as a teenager, and trauma and the alcohol addiction that’s rampant throughout my family. It’s really meant to be a healing story, an empowering story of how I learned to cope with those things, and how food and cooking and sharing meals with friends has helped me feel less alone, less isolated, and helps with my anxiety.
I didn’t start writing it thinking I would publish this book. I wrote it for me as a cathartic process in terms of dealing with some of my feelings and emotions and past traumas. It became something that I learned, sharing it with friends, was [a] really important message to share in the world. I found a lot of people relate to it, which feels less isolating.

What’s the most trouble that you’ve ever gotten into?
Oh gosh, I don’t know if I should say… I probably shouldn’t talk about throwing parties, but…

You could do that.
In high school I was house sitting for my grandparents and threw a huge Christmas break party that the cops came to, and everybody escaped and ran. I heard stories for years of people running barefoot in the snow in the woods. That got me in some trouble. Although, my grandparents were totally understanding and were like, “just clean up after yourself.” My parents weren’t too pleased.

(Erika later offered another response.)
I was deported from Belgium due to a student visa mix-up after completing my semester abroad in Prague. I was trying to backpack around Europe by myself all summer, but instead I spent a night alone in the Brussels airport police barracks and ended up back in the States much earlier than planned.

Tell me about your best friend.
My best friend: her name is Kelsey. We met when we were a few months old and grew up together straight through high school. She is kind of a troublemaker. She’s hilarious. She’s one of the kindest people I know.
She became a scuba diving instructor and the captain of a catamaran that they’ve chartered in the Caribbean for years now. She and her family live in Saint Thomas, in the U.S. Virgin Islands, where she runs logistics for charters, and she has a one-year-old who is one of my favorite little humans. She calls herself my sister and I always love it. I don’t get to see her as much as I’d like with her living in the Caribbean, but when we do [get together] it’s always just like we’re sixteen again.

If you could be remembered for anything, what would you want to be remembered for?
I mean, of course, my books, but in a larger sense, for kindness. I want to be remembered for being a kind person who helped others. I’d like to think that I help folks. I certainly try to. That’s what I really think. I want to be remembered by the kindness and support I offer to others, and hopefully folks see that in my books as well.

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About the Contributors
Dayne Bell, Editor in Chief
Dayne (he/they) is a creative writing student who has probably already told you where he's from. His zodiac sign is Pisces, which tells you everything you need to know.
Destiny Herron, Staff Writer, Copy Editor
Destiny Herron (she/her) is a first year freshman student of Abenaki heritage who’s major is Creative Writing. Her star sign is a Libra and she doesn’t like to be involved in fights or arguments. She lives with her mom, has two younger sisters, and a cat named Charliee. Destiny is also into writing, as she’s currently writing her 4th novel: “Restoration of Corrupted Heart.” She is a horse person and enjoys riding whenever she gets the chance. As someone who is a kind, reserved, and thoughtful person, she wishes to make a difference in the world around her as well as in other people’s lives

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  • J

    Jennifer JonesFeb 23, 2024 at 7:51 am

    Thank you to Erika for your openness about your experiences as a writer and with mental health issues. It was truly inspiring and I look forward to reading more in your memoir. Additionally, I commend the student reporters for their thoughtful questions and coverage. Well done!

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  • A

    AlisonFeb 22, 2024 at 3:42 pm

    I have been working with Erika for the last year or so at the University and have been fortunate enough to have read some of her poetry and have her help me with editing some of mine. Although I learned most about Erika through her work, and our conversations in each other’s offices, I did learn new things that I did not know until reading this article. I would say that Erika is a very humble, kind, helpful person and she takes pleasure in supporting other people, whether that be people she knows or people she has never met in person.

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