Starting her career in theatre as an actress, Nelson took part in experimental theatre at the Joseph Papp Public Theatre.
Following performances in The Tempest, Green Card and Another Part in the Forest in the New York Shakespeare Festival, Nelson was invited to Los Angeles by Columbia Pictures and she started to work in television and film.
Finding few roles that interested her, Nelson started to write scripts.
She began with the documentary, My First Time, and the door to the AFI Chanticleer program (a non-profit organization which helped industry professionals direct short fiction films) was opened to her.
Taking advantage of the program, she went on to write and direct To the Moon, Alice for television.
In 1994, Nelson wrote and directed her first full-length feature, Corrina, Corrina starring Whoopi Goldberg and Ray Liotta. Despite a generally pleased critic population, the film failed to garner much interest in the theatres.
Married to filmmaker Brian Gordon, Nelson lives in Los Angeles with their daughter, Molly June Gordon.