Nina Schwelm leaves Sandy Springs for college as an award-winning playwright, and while she plans to become a teacher, she said writing will always be part of her life.

The North Springs High School graduate – class of 2021 – was one of three student winners in the Georgia Film Academy’s Dramatic Writing 10-Minute Play Competition.

Nina Schwelm plans a career as a teacher, but writing will remain a part of her life after winning awards for playwriting and her work on North Springs High’s literary magazine. (Special)

“The play was actually my midterm for my dramatic writing class! My classmates and I were required to write 10-minute productions to be graded by our teacher, Mr. Joel King,” Schwelm said in an email interview.

King told his students that the school’s two dramatic writing teachers would pick one play to submit to a statewide play competition. One entry was allowed per school.

As part of the brainstorming process, King asked his students to think of questions they wished they had answers to – and then answer one of those questions in the form of a play.

“My question was, ‘Are letters across the sea enough to keep the spark of a relationship aflame?’” Schwelm said.

Her play, “Across the Sea,” tells the story of a Marine stationed on a U.S. military base in Afghanistan and his girlfriend living stateside in an urban metropolis, Fulton County Schools said. Winning entries will be given staged readings by professional actors over Zoom, planned for autumn of 2021.

Schwelm said she never gave playwriting much thought, though she had envisioned writing a book or film. Her first attempt at the craft was in her sophomore year at North Springs as part of The 24-Hour Plays.

“I had no idea what I was doing and a little less than five hours to write a ten-minute production. It was so stressful – I consider my first play an absolute train wreck,” Schwelm said.

So she was shocked to learn she won statewide honors for “Across the Sea,” after being surprised to be the school’s entry.

“I was just about to head out to run errands with my mom when my phone buzzed with a text from Mr. King. I looked down at my phone and in the middle of the message, in all caps, was ‘YOUR PLAY WON!’ and I couldn’t believe it,” she said.

Schwelm said she has little theater experience, except for elementary and school camp productions.

Writing is a different matter. In sophomore year, she was assistant editor of North Springs’ literary magazine, “Echo.” The magazine gained a superior ranking from the Georgia Scholastic Press Association. In her junior year, she was promoted to editor-in-chief and managed the staff.

“That year, I won a superior ranking from GSPA for a poem I wrote,” she said.

Schwelm took audio-visual technology and film class during high school. In her senior year, she was script writer and anchor for the school’s news broadcast, “North Springs News.”

“I had a few really great teachers and some nice friends, but I’m looking forward to the future,” Schwelm said.

That future starts at Georgia College and State University in Milledgeville where she plans to study Special Education.

“I will most definitely continue to write – maybe the literary magazine will have a need for me. I’m in the Honors College and Leadership Academy as well,” she said.

After college work, writing, marriage and family are ahead for the Sandy Springs native.

“I would love to travel and one day be able to meet and converse with my favorite actor, Adam Driver. I actually dedicated my play to him and imagined him and his wife, Joanne Tucker, playing my main characters,” Schwelm said.

Bob Pepalis

Bob Pepalis covers Sandy Springs for Reporter Newspapers.