The Shocking Real Life Learning Center was founded in 2007 by Hollis Gillespie, a humor columnist and author based in Atlanta, Georgia. The center began as a way for professionals to “survive extinction” during the melee of social media and ePublishing, offering courses in book-writing, blogging, all forms of social media and even iPhone familiarity. Now the SRL Learning Center is located in the Good Works Loft Complex at 695 Pylant St., Atlanta, GA, 30306, and has evolved into the largest writing school in Atlanta, and has expanded to include classes on film writing, acting, cartoon illustration and other skills in media and the arts. (“Maybe one day we can offer belly-dancing classes!” says Gillespie.)
Gillespie’s Shocking Real Life writing retreats have been a mainstay of the learning center since its inception in 2007. They continue to be a popular, unorthodox, fun and extremely effective catalyst for creativity and boots-to-the-ground instruction on how to bust your creative balls, format your book and get a literary agent and/or book deal. Notable graduates of the writing retreats include Rachael Brownell, whose book, Mommy Doesn’t Drink Here Anymore, garnered her appearances on the Today show and Good Morning America, which subsequently pushed her book to the top of the charts. Another graduate is Lisa Baron, whose book, The Life of the Party, became an instant Amazon bestseller, and recently Lisa sold the film rights to her book to NBC Universal.
“I had two things working for me that I believe made the difference: determination and Hollis Gillespie’s kick-ass workshop! The workshop gave me the confidence I needed to continue following my dream of becoming a published author. She was key to helping me fine tune my proposal and her personal involvement in my journey has been invaluable.” Lisa Baron
The blogging classes continue to be the most popular in the city, and have expanded to specialties in those fields as well, such as sports blogging, food blogging, and blogging for business and non-profits. There are many notable graduates of the blogging courses. Among them is Caleb Spivak of whatnowatlanta.com, whose blog is regularly quoted in major news outlets such as The New York Times, and CNN, and has been named “Favorite Blog to Follow” by Creative Loafing, one of the largest alternative publications in the nation. Another notable blogging-class graduate is Christal Presely, whose blog, unitedchildrenofveterans.com, was featured on the front page of the Atlanta Journal Constitution, which garnered her an invitation to speak before Congress, which in turn attracted her a book deal based on her blog. Her book is called Thirty Days with my Father; Finding Peace from Wartime PTSD, and is an Amazon bestseller.
“[Hollis Gillespie’s] writing class is where my life was TOTALLY and COMPLETELY changed forever!” Christal Presley
More About SRL Founder Hollis Gillespie:
Gillespie wrote for Atlanta’s Creative Loafing weekly for eight years until October 2008. Currently, Hollis is a columnist at Atlanta (magazine) and a commentator on NPR’s All Things Considered. She has collaborated on film projects with Laura Dern, (star of HBO’s Enlightened), Mitch Hurwitz (creator of Arrested Development), Amy Sherman Palladino (creator of Gilmore Girls), Bill Haber (producer of Rizzoli and Isles) and Sheri Elwood (creator of Call Me Fitz). She is represented by the Creative Artists Agency in Los Angeles.
In 2004, Writers Digest named Hollis Gillespie a “Breakout Author of the Year. Other accolades include the “Best Columnist” (2001, 2002, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009) and “Best Local Author” (2004, 2005, 2006, 2008, 2009) honors in the Creative Loafing “Best of Atlanta” Readers Survey. Atlanta magazine awarded her “Best ‘Tell-All’” in 2006. In 2012, the Magazine Association of the Southeast granted a MAGS award to Hollis Gillespie for “Editorial Excellence.”
She is the author of the books Bleachy-Haired Honky Bitch, Confessions of a Recovering Slut, and Trailer Trashed. Upon publication of her first book, Hollis Gillespie appeared as a guest on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno. Jay Leno called her “a very funny lady.” The rights to her first book, Bleachy-Haired Honky Bitch, were optioned by both Sony Pictures and Paramount. She has
|Hollis Gillespie and Jay Leno
on The Tonight Show set after her guest appearance
|Sean Hannity, Neal Boortz, Ron Carlson, Hollis Gillespie, Clark Howard, James Carville and Neil Cavuto — Atlanta’s Meeting of the Mouths|
|Jeff Foxworthy and Hollis Gillespie
backstage at Good Day Atlanta
|Elijah Wood and Hollis Gillespie
onstage at NBC’s The Tonight Show
|Television producer Stephen J. Cannell (Rockford Files) and Hollis Gillespie reminisce about sharing the mic on Neal Boortz‘s radio show.||Hollis Gillespie at her guest appearance on the nationally syndicated radio show “The Money Pit” hosted by Tom Kraeutler and Leslie Segrete (While You Were Out).|
|Hollis Gillespie and her friend Kate Pierson, lead singer of The B-52’s, chat backstage during the band’s Funplex tour.||Hollis and Joshilyn Jackson (The Girl Who Stopped Swimming, gods in Alabama) appeared together at the 2008 Decatur Book Festival.|
|Hollis and fellow humorist Roy Blount Jr.||Hollis and Indigo Girl Amy Ray chat backstage during her solo “Didn’t It Feel Kinder” tour.|
|Hollis with Academy Award winning actor Tilda Swinton at the Sundance Film Festival 2010||Authors Patti Callahan Henry and Hollis Gillespie take questions from a standing room only crowd at the Decatur Book Festival.|
Hollis Gillespie’s FAQ:
Where do you get your ideas?
I pay attention to my brain. It’s harder than you think, because thoughts are fleeting and hard to capture. So I always have a pad and pen nearby, so I can write down chapter first sentences when they occur to me. I learned this as a flight attendant; I always carried a printout of our trip summary in my breast pocket, and while I was working I’d get these thoughts and often it fell to these slips of papers to write them on. So I have a giant box of these little snippets, like “Sometimes I still get mad at Lary for shooting at me . . .” printed on the backs of my crew lists, and I pluck from them when I need inspiration.
Did you always want to be a writer?
It was not even a matter of choice. I was born this way. There is absolutely nothing else I could have done as a profession. I’m forever grateful for the genius suggestion from my friend Jeff, who, after watching me fail at trying to fit in as an industry plebe after college, suggested I get a job as a flight attendant to pay my bills while I compiled the body of work that would eventually become my livelihood. Thank God the other flight attendants, who were not fooled for a second, allowed me to live among them while I found my way.
How much of your books are true?
Me: All of it is true so much as the truth can be trusted to my recollection (barring hyperbole and outright hallucinations), and almost none of it is still true. I make that distinction because, alarmingly, a lot of people don’t. A lot people seriously think that because I wrote a story 10 years ago about how I passed out in the parking lot of the Clermont Lounge, that they can go there this afternoon and find me passed out. It’s one of the bizarre consequences of having won acclaim writing stories that are based on my experience; people believe that these experiences, which are isolated in their depictions and happened in the past, represent me to this day, like as a 45-year-old I’m really gonna spend my nights horking cocktails and having sex with Australian soccer players. No, as a 45-year-old I’m going to spend my nights writing about when I used to hork cocktails and have sex with Australian soccer players. There’s a difference; the most important being that former would make me an irresponsible mother, whereas the latter makes me an ingenious businesswoman who has figured out how to translate her past into income so I can support my child.
Here is what Grant, Lary and Daniel have to say about it:
Grant Henry: “Don’t believe a word that bitch says about me!”
Daniel Troppy: “This is not a real quote. I never said this.”
Lary Blodgett: “Keep walking and don’t make eye contact.”
Is Bleachy-Haired Honky Bitch going to be a television series?
We hope so. We’ve been invited to pitch to HBO twice and so far they’ve said no, but it’s never a no with a capitol “N,” and they leave the door open to revisit, so we plan to keep doing so. I just like going to L.A. so I can stay in the Beverly Laurel Motor Lodge and eat at the Swingers coffee shop in the lobby.
When do you do your writing?
I used to write all night, but now that I’m a mom I now write four hours a day, either while my daughter is asleep or in school, which is probably more productive than before, because the productivity is concentrated and not spread out and interspersed with hangovers and other dubious endeavors. I aim for 5,000 words a week, though once I wrote 30 pages in 2 days. I recommend getting away if you’re under a crunch to pump out the pages. Email and cable TV are death to productivity, get away to where they have neither of these and you’ll soar.
Who are your favorite writers?
Joan Didion, P.J. O’Rourke, Evelyn Waugh, P.G. Wodehouse, Dave Barry, Randall Osborne, Carl Hiassen, William Geist, Amy Tan, Karyn Slaughter, Jacqueline Mitchard, Beth Lisick, David Sedaris, Charles McNair, Doug Monroe, Tim Dorsey.
I wrote a novel, too! Can I send it to you for you to read?
Congratulations! I’m proud of you, though it would not be legally responsible for me to read your unpublished novel unless you enrolled in my Shocking Real-Life Writing Academy class on how to get your already-written manuscript published. Keep an eye out for our classes on how to pitch an agent!
I haven’t written a novel, but I have a great idea for one. Want to hear it?
If you have a great idea for a novel, you should pursue it in a concrete manner rather than bloviate about it to the point where it never gets written. You must, MUST, enroll in one of my Shocking Real-Life courses and establish the network of steps that it will take to get your book published.
Will you come do a reading in my city?
Probably. I’m a marketing machine.
Will you visit, or call, my bookclub?
If your book club is in the metro Atlanta area I would be happy to consider it if a supply of at least 20 books is purchased from me in advance. If your book club is outside the Atlanta area and would require me getting on a plane, I would still consider that, but you’d have to pay my speaker fee and provide me with copious coffee of artisan quality.
Do you really read your email? Do you answer it all?
I swear I try. Sometimes I miss one or two, and I’ll wake up in a sweat over them for years afterward. I sincerely try to respond to all emails, but I fail. I FAIL, I tell you! (sob, sob, snot, snot) There was once a reader who sent me a little toy Shasta camper, which I didn’t receive from the newsroom until almost a year after it was mailed, and I emailed the sender a heartfelt thanks, but I’ve been haunted ever since that he didn’t receive my response, and now I wanna die that there’s someone out there who sent me a gift and may not have gotten a thank you. Lord, the South does rub off on you.
I feel like I know you after reading your column and books, you seem like a great person, would you like to get together for a drink sometime? I don’t drink, and I’m not that great. I look nothing like my author photo, for example. I looked like that for five minutes once and thank God my friend was nearby with a camera so she could click it for posterity. Normally I just wear whatever sticks to me from the floor when I roll out of bed in the morning, and I leave the house with snarly hair and halitosis. But if you insist, here are the coffee houses I hang out at in Atlanta and Decatur: Gathering Grounds, Java Vino, San Francisco Coffee Grinders and Stone Soup. If you see me there, say Hi, but I cannot make plans to meet up, sorry. I am notoriously unreliable when it comes to showing up for social gatherings. Go bug Grant Henry, who is still a bartender at the Local on Ponce de Leon on Wednesdays and Fridays. People always go there to stare at him.