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Want an 1805 colonial mansion inn for $125 and 200 words? 

A few years back, the internet was full of these contests. Netflix made a movie. With the pandemic, these opportunities have dried up. But that just means they will be back soon. Are you ready to submit your winning essay?

I think Netflix missed a better story. A true story that’s also kind of a fairy tale. 

Once upon a time (1993, to be exact), a beautiful maiden (well, she was actually married but bear with me) entered a tournament in which she did mighty battle with the help of her enchanted typewriter. She emerged victorious over all opponents, and was awarded the keys to the kingdom. (Actually, it was a mansion in Maine that had been converted into a Bed & Breakfast hotel, but pretty spiffy anyway…) She lived happily ever after.

The End.

Until the sequel.

ee42c824637ec73bfb824ee1f9173eee55-11024-11005-barbie_and_ken-1387300820They never tell you in fairy tales what happens when Cinderella and the Prince get to retirement age, and just want to hit some golf balls down in Florida. But Janice Sage knows. With her 200-word essay and her $100 entry fee, she won the Center Lovell Inn in a contest held by then-owners, Bill and Susie Mosca, when they decided to retire over twenty years earlier. So she decided to pass along the keys to her Maine kingdom the same way she got it. And it could happen to you too.

Yes, if you have $125 and some excellent writing skills, you could enter Janice Sage’s contest and win her gorgeous 1805 Colonial mansion inn and restaurant. [NOTE: This isn’t quite as generous on Janice’s part as you may think. Her conservative estimate is that the contest will attract at least the 7500 entries that will bring her take to over $900,000.]


Center Lovell Inn, Maine

And I can help you.

What’s that you say? Not really a writer? Well, that’s where I come in. Surely, people who are willing to spend $125 on a chance for a mansion could afford to spend a tiny bit more to make sure your 200 words are telling your story in the best way possible.

For only a little more, ladies and gentlemen, I will take your 200 words and turn them into a dazzling professional entry, one sure to impress Janice Sage and her judges with your sincerity and worthiness. Of course, everyone’s story is different. That’s why I’m prepared to offer a variety of packages, priced in accordance with their respective shares of the book industry sales as a whole:

  • $460 Romance Package. Cupid wants you to win! Since romance and its subgenres represent 46% of the market for genre fiction—almost a quarter of all books published—this is probably your very best chance to win the hotel. (NOTE: the romance-alternative 50 Shades package is actually significantly cheaper, because it doesn’t require good writing at all. Cupid ties you to the bed and spanks you while our random smexy-word generator spits out 145 adjectives, some 27 reusable adverbs, a few random verbs and nouns, and a pair of fur-lined cuffs.)
  • $190 Thriller Package. You have to win in order to save the free world from the forces of um…the not-as-free world—evil politicians, genetically modified broccoli, and 3-Star Hotel Chain CEOs who don’t even think they need to provide shampoo and conditioner or full-sized towels as long as they give you a chocolate chip cookie when you check in.
  • $180…..Religious/Inspirational Package. God (or the Goddess) wants you to win.
  • $150…..SciFi/Fantasy Package. The Force wants you to win.
  • $20……Horror Package. Jack Nicholson wants you to win.
  • $(We pay you) Literary Fiction package. Nobody’s actually going to read it, but we’ll all pretend to think your entry was just the best.

Sample Contest Entry

Just to give you an idea of what you can expect for your purchase, here is a sample entry from our SciFi/Fantasy package—YA Fantasy Contest Entry

Dear Ms. Sage,

I am writing because I turn eighteen tomorrow and will face the Test. Yesterday my mother braided my (long, red) hair and my little sister hugged her kitten to show how innocent she is. (The kitten scratched her. He isn’t into metaphors.) Today they are, of course, dead.

Our family of simple hotel keepers has always followed the Old Ways. But there are New Ways threatening our traditional listings on Hotels.com. Is the all-powerful Google search algorithm really to control our lives? Will we be forced to replace our time-honored metal keys with the cold and heartless plastic of electronic systems? I pledge to gather a small team (do they allow elves in Maine?) and right this injustice.

I’m shy and plain but very smart, and two incredibly hot guys— one of them sparkles!—are fighting over me. This will not, however keep me from making the Center Lovell Inn into a hotel with so many positive ratings that the All-Powerful Trip Advisor will confer upon it the title of Number One Attraction for Lovell Maine.

Also, it is quite possible that I am the Chosen One. And part-unicorn.


Gulainiska k’Sullen

Update: This contest ended with a couple from Brooklyn, Rose and Prince Adams, taking over as the new innkeepers. Janice Sage received enough entries to finance a comfortable retirement, and the Adams family are another generation of contest-winning owners. [image credit: Querty, painting by Alex Zonis from author’s collection]