Elizabeth paid her way through college and graduate school waitressing and starting and/or running theatre companies. Her second, the Women’s Theatre Co-operative was the first “professional” feminist theatre company in Canada. She took a Master’s degree in Arts Administration, which was only glancingly about the arts, mostly about microeconomics, labor economics, policy and statistics, which turned out to be damned useful.
She moved to New York in 1980 and worked for a Broadway producer and Arthur Penn, the film director. With her then-husband, she started a vintage clothing store in Soho, called New Republic Clothiers, which was immediately crazy-successful, and so stressful, it broke up her marriage.
She then moved to London and took a job as a stringer in the Time Magazine bureau and after a couple of years became European Bureau Chief of Life Magazine. During that time, she arranged photo stories and interviewed Nelson Mandela, Margaret Thatcher, the Dalai Lama, and dozens of other leaders, movie and pop stars, politicians, and royalty, as well as torture victims, political prisoners and criminals. She oversaw Life photographers in the field during the first Gulf War and the Mandela release. She managed to initiate and co-ordinate the acquisition of Nelson Mandela’s autobiography for Little Brown, while Mr. Mandela was still in prison. She spent the first three weeks of Mandela’s release in his back garden.
In 1994 Bloomsbury UK and Knopf Canada published her novel, The Monkey Puzzle Tree, which tells the story of the CIA mind control program in Montreal in the 50’s and 60’s. Liz Calder, a founding director and Publishing Director of Bloomsbury was the book’s editor and champion.
Nickson has also written for The (London) Sunday Times Magazine, The Guardian, The Observer, The Independent, Tatler, The Sunday Telegraph, Vogue, Femme, Vogue Hommes, Saturday Night, Chatelaine, and Harper’s Magazine.
Her 2001 Harper’s piece, Where the Bee Sucks used the plot, characters and language of The Tempest to describe Salt Spring Island’s political life. Where the Bee Sucks was collected in The Best American Travel Writing of 2002, edited by Frances Mayes.
In 1998, Elizabeth returned to Canada, and began writing for the Globe and Mail as a contributing reviewer for the Books section. She then became a weekly columnist for the Globe in the Review section.
In 2000, she moved to the Comment Page of the National Post. At the Post, she developed a way of framing economics, politics, and culture, using personal story to illuminate meaning and import. As a result she quickly became well-known in Canada, was quoted widely, and was much criticized and equally loved. She appeared on television and radio, gave speeches at various think tanks, and debated politicians and other thinkers.
In 2012, Elizabeth published Eco-Fascists, How Radical Conservationists Are Destroying Our Natural Heritage, with Harper-Collins, New York. The book presaged the Trump era exploring how rural people all through the U.S. and Canada have been regulated near to exhaustion, and their devalued lands taken by multi-national corporations working through massive conservancy organizations.