She left college early to join the Free Southern Theater, during the Civil Rights Movement. After spending two years touring the deep South with the FST, Nicholas went to New York and joined the Negro Ensemble Company and working in all productions during the first season of that theater ensemble. From the stage of the St. Marks Playhouse in New York, Nicholas was cast in the ABC series Room 222. Nicholas received her BA in Drama from the University of Southern California, after living in Southern California for a number of years.
Her first novel, Freshwater Road, was published by Agate Publishing, in August 2005. it received a starred review in Publishers Weekly and was selected as one of the best books of 2005 by The Washington Post, The Detroit Free Press The Atlanta Journal Constitution, Newsday and The Chicago Tribune.
Brown University commissioned Nicholas to write a staged adaptation of Freshwater Road, which was presented in May 2008.