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 Ponce City Market at 675 Ponce de Leon Ave. SE, 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, when she became 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.
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.
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.
Do you really read your email? Do you answer it all?
I swear I try.