Clare Skalle has high hopes for her future.
“I plan to be a bestselling author and a famous director,” Skalle said.
The Minnetonka High School senior has written five short stories and is working on another for her college application. “I love writing teen fiction consisting of fantasy with a little zest of romance,” she said.
Skalle’s poem My Dear Peggy appeared in Emerson College’s online magazine, The Elm.
Her story Little Lost Girl was published in Minnetonka High’s Literary Magazine. “It’s about a boy who is dared by the school bully to venture into the supposedly haunted school building,” she said.
“I don't really write for any publication, I simply write to write,” she said. “I love being able to create worlds and rules, something I'm not allowed to do in school.”
Skalle has been creative since she was a kid.
“When I was little, I was the one in playtime to make up all the games,” Skalle recalled.
“My inspiration for writing came from Penguin Publishing in elementary school, where students wrote little stories and volunteer parents would bind them into something like real books.”
Writing has become a daily exercise for Skalle. “I always make sure to write every day even if it’s just a few sentences,” she said.
Skalle listens to music for inspiration while she writes. “For some reason, silence is unnerving to my ears,” she said. “For every story, I comb through my library to find the songs that fit the story best and just listen to those on repeat.”
She enjoys a variety of music. “My sister exposed me hardcore rock and alternative, but I mostly listen to pop,” Skalle said. Her favorite artists are Ellie Goulding and Elizaveta.
When writing, she prefers to be in her bedroom or living room. “Though I've been known to jot down story ideas and lines of dialogue during my classes,” she admitted. “Luckily, most of my teachers never noticed.”
How does she handle writer's block?
“I take a break from writing and do something that will inspire me,” said Skalle. “This could be watching a movie or walking a bit on the treadmill.”
Skalle is an avid reader, and her collection fills two bookshelves in her room. "I’ve read all of them, which sometimes even scares me," she said.
Skalle prefers old-fashioned paper books, rather than the electronic kind. “But I buy books that are only in hardcover on my Nook since it’s about ten dollars cheaper,” she said.
She reads mostly paranormal romance teen novels. Her favorite book is The Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor. “I love her lyricism and unique comparisons,” Skalle said of Taylor. “I also love how she stays away from clichés like vampires and werewolves, which is exactly what I do.”
Like many teens, Skalle read the Hunger Games and Twilight series.
“I enjoyed them both, though I personally am over vampires,” she said. “Usually I don't read the mega-popular books and instead go for something a bit more abnormal. Recently I read Sanctum by Sarah Fine and loved it.”
Skalle is on the honor roll at Minnetonka. Psychology and sociology are her favorite classes. “I learn a lot of things I didn't know and it helps me make my characters more realistic,” she said. “I've also come to discover that I love writing fantasy stories with a psychological twist.”
Skalle believes her writing will benefit from the expertise of Heather Anastasiu, who is Skalle’s mentor through the school Honors Mentor Connection. “She is a teen fiction writer focusing on science fiction,” said Skalle. “She's exactly the kind of writer I aspire to be.”
As a senior, Skalle offers this advice to freshmen: “Do things outside of school. Find ways to expand your knowledge of your field of interest.”
For example, Skalle attended a one-week workshop at Augustana College in Rock Island, Illinois, and she takes classes at the Loft Literary Center in Minneapolis. She also attended a five-week creative writing workshop at Emerson College in Boston.
“In Boston, I discovered how much I love the city and it seems to like me back,” she said. “With just a map of street names I'm easily able to navigate, but my mom on the other hand walked an hour in the wrong direction without me.”
Skalle likes the diversity of big cities. “Traveling to different cities and towns has given me a wider perspective and so I am able to create tons of different characters,” she said.
She plans to move to Chicago next fall to attend Columbia College. “I'm going to take a double major in fiction writing and directing with screenwriting classes in between,” she said.
Skalle applied for Columbia’s presidential scholarship, an award based on academic achievement and demonstration of talent, ability, or accomplishment. “I personally think I have a good shot at getting it,” she said. “I plan to use some of my free time during winter break to apply for other scholarships too.”
In addition to writing novels, Skalle hopes to pursue a career as a screen writer. “In theory, my first movie will be an adaptation of one of my novels,” she said.
What actors does she envision in her films?
“I always separate my characters from actors because characters seem to have a life of their own,” said the self-proclaimed Bruce Willis fan. “To be able to cast the character I would need to see them act out a scene to see if the actor matches.”
Skalle is a movie buff. “I frequently go to the movies,” she said. “Then afterwards, my dad and I pick apart the movie to decipher what worked and what stumbled and failed.” Her favorite films include Red, Stardust, and Avatar.
This past Halloween, Skalle stayed in and watched old monster movies with her family. “This year we watched The Invisible Man and The Wolf Man, though our favorite is Creature from the Black Lagoon,” said Skalle. “I love hanging out with my family. We're very close.”
The Skalle family includes mom Sara, dad Hans (whom Skalle calls “Pops”), and younger sister Annika. “She is super smart,” Skalle noted.
The family also includes several pets: three dogs, two birds, several fish and a horse.
“Oh my word, I love animals,” said Skalle. She once considered becoming a veterinarian. She opted for writing instead “when I realized my disgust of innards prevented me from becoming a vet,” she said.
Skalle likes stories containing animals. “Pets sometimes make the best characters,” she said. “They can add comic relief or they can exacerbate the situation. I especially love when humans have animal parts like horns or a tail. It’s just really cool.”
The family spent the holidays at home. “On Christmas Eve, we always open one present,” Skalle said.
Her holiday wish list included an iPad for college and theater tickets. “Theater is just an amazing and breathtaking style of writing, completely different from screenwriting,” she said.
Skalle’s parents were initially concerned about her choice of career, because it is difficult to make a living as a writer. “After reading my short stories, my parents told me I’ll do fine.”
Skalle maintains a positive attitude despite the odds she faces.
“I don't even want to think about the down days I'll have with only a cup of ramen to keep me company,” Skalle said. “I feel confident in myself and my work and have no doubts that I'll prosper.”