Erika Nichols-Frazer with her book Feed Me.

On Saturday, March 30, local author Erika Nichols-Frazer will teach a workshop called “Food for Thought: Using Taste to Explore Your Writing.” It will be hosted by Onion River Workshop and held at Karma Birdhouse, 47 Maple Street in Burlington, from 1 to 3 p.m.

“It’s going to be an exercise in sensory writing,” Nichols-Frazer said, “and a way of using food to unlock memories.” Participants will be reading examples of food writing and generating new work. They will also be sampling small plates of food – writing from the flavors, textures, scents, and associations that emerge.

A few dishes, prepared by Nichols-Frazer herself, include baked feta cheese with honey and smoky, roasted carrot dip. She said that writing from one’s sensory experience can be useful for many genres – whether a restaurant review, a poem or a short story. “It basically teaches you to bring yourself into the present,” she said.

Nichols-Frazer, who worked as a staff writer for The Valley Reporter from 2021-2023, mainly has a background in creative writing, and loves to teach it. As the writing and humanities coordinator at Vermont State University in Johnson, she helps students to hone their writing skills. She is also the editor of “The Mountain Troubadour,” the Poetry Society of Vermont's annual print journal.

Her memoir “Feed Me: A Story of Food, Love and Mental Illness” was published by Casper Press in late 2022, and her poetry collection “Staring Too Closely” was published by Main Street Rag last year.

“Feed Me” is about how Nichols-Frazer worked to heal her body and mind through a process of learning to love food. Each chapter is centered around a different food, which she said was somewhat accidental.

During a writing residency at Vermont Studio Center in Johnson, she was buttering a piece of bread in the dining hall when she recalled memories of eating pats of butter while hospitalized for disordered eating at 13 years old. “I have so many memories tied to food,” she said. “I started weaving a history of butter with these associations, and it became a short piece.” A friend in residence read her draft and suggested the book was more about the intersection of mental health and food.

Nichols-Frazer is currently editing a series of 23 short stories that she wrote for her Master’s thesis at the Bennington Writing Seminars – with half of these already published in literary journals. She is also slowly working on a novel.

She said The Valley has a robust community of writers – reading and editing each other’s work, and even planning to set up a table at the Waitsfield Farmers Market where local authors can sell their books. “We’re very fortunate here to have so many creative people around, including writers – published or not. There’s just so much interest in self-expression and using art to convey one’s story.”

At Saturday’s workshop in Burlington, food will play a central role in the production of those stories.