CUMBERLAND — Sarah Mulcahy learned the first lesson about writing when she sat down to think about her essay for the contest “A Journey Into Writing.”

The lesson: You can’t fake it.

“I wanted to write something philosophical. I tried writing a poem about love. But it did not work out well, so I decided to write about something I know. When I did that, the words just flowed,” said Mulcahy, a 17-year-old from Cumberland and a junior at Greely High School.

Mulcahy wrote about her experiences working at Stones Cafe & Bakery in North Yarmouth. She titled her staccato essay “Saturday Waitress.”

She’s had the job for about a year, and does a little bit of everything at the cafe. She waits on customers and buses tables, washes dishes, scrubs the floor. She even does windows when necessary.

In her essay, she compares the physicality and grace of her work to that of a ballerina, and views the cafe’s customers as a paying audience. “They watch me coordinate and execute a perfectly choreographed performance,” she writes.

Mulcahy is a gregarious, spirited young woman, brimming with confidence.

She draws inspiration for her writing from her grandmother, who was a published author. As a middle school student, she wrote a fantasy/science fiction book of 450 pages titled “Coming Rain.” She self-published it through Lulu, and is shopping it for commercial publication.

She envisions “Coming Rain” as the first in a series of five or six books. She’s currently working on the second installment.

Mulcahy credits her teachers at Greely for preparing her to work hard for her success, both in the classroom and outside of school. She applies herself at school, and appreciates that good grades are not handed out without being earned. “You do not get an ‘A’ on a paper unless you get a 93,” she said.

That same philosophy applies at work. Her Saturday mornings at the cafe are never easy, but they are rewarding. She took the job to earn money for college, and her efforts paid off. She’s been able to put away some money, but the bonanza was finding inspiration in her job to write a winning essay in “A Journey Into Writing.”

As one of three winners, she receives a check for $2,500 “and a plaque that is half the size of my body.” She will put that money toward her education, and keep alive a long-held dream.

“My dream for the past few years is to be as famous as J.K. Rowling,” she said, referencing the “Harry Potter” writer. “That is my dream.”

She’s off to a good start.