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Owner Unloads Maine Inn For An Essay, Postage And $125

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

The Center Lovell Inn and Restaurant in Maine is looking for a new owner. It won't go to the highest bidder. If you want it, you have to be able to write for it.

MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

The Inn is the grand prize in an essay contest. Janice Sage, the Inn's current owner says the contest is pretty basic. Prospective owners are asked to send in a $125 entry fee and...

JANICE SAGE: ...A 200-word essay. It has to be formally done and grammatically correct, and they need to convey that they can run the Inn.

BLOCK: Sage will read all the entries herself and choose 20 of her favorites. After that, two anonymous judges will make the final selection.

CORNISH: Now, this story might sound vaguely familiar. It did to me, and that's because NPR did this story 22 years ago. That was after Janice Sage entered and won a similar essay contest. Here she is talking with NPR's Andrea de Leon on Morning Edition.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED BROADCAST)

SAGE: I didn't think we were going to win. I was never really a lucky person. And when I was a kid, I used to write away. They had a contest, you know? Write away why you want to win a pony. Well, I must've written a thousand letters, and I never won the pony.

BLOCK: But back in 1993, all she had to do was write one letter.

CORNISH: And she got much more than a pony. Her grand prize? What else? The Center Lovell Inn and Restaurant.

SAGE: When I find out I won - oh, I screamed (laughter) literally.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "SHOUT")

THE ISLEY BROTHERS: (Singing) You know you make me want to shout, kick my heels up and shout, throw my hands up and shout, throw my head back and shout.

CORNISH: She moved from Maryland to Maine and went from being the manager of a restaurant to the owner of an inn.

SAGE: I opened up, and away I went. And I haven't looked back since.

CORNISH: Janice Sage says that writing contest in 1993 gave her an opportunity she might never have had, and now she's going to pay it forward.

BLOCK: Once her inn is in good hands, Sage wants to retire. So if you think you have what it takes, sharpen those pencils...

CORNISH: ...Or fire up those laptops...

BLOCK: ...And get writing. You never know what could happen. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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