SRL blogging workshop alum Heather Abraham‘s blog,, is a fabulous resource to examine the hilarity of world religion. Heather is also an alum of SRL’s Book Writers Boot Camp, and her memoir, The Bookie’s Daughter, is available now.

SRL book-deal prodigy Corinne Humphrey‘s landed a book deal with Chronicle Books and now her SECOND book, Shoot for the Moon; Lessons on Life from a Dog Named Rudy, is out on the shelves and doing great. Here Corinne is on TV.

SRL Pitch Doctor alum Kevin Hazzard was recently the subject of a bidding war between two New York super agents based on the pitch letter for his manuscript, A Thousand Naked Strangers, a memoir on his years as a demoralized paramedic based on his hilarious and poignant blog. And so far Kevin had made two trips to Hollywood to discuss the film rights.

SRL Pitch Doctor alum Julie Benz‘s pitch letter recently landed the interest of this New York super agent in regards to her side-splitting manuscript, Julie versus Vegetables; One Woman’s Battle to Make Beets Her Bitch, a memoir that is based on her blog.

SRL blogging workshop alum Louis Cahill‘s fishing blog,, is catching a whale of attention. Louis Cahill: “Hi Hollis. Just wanted to let you know how things are going. We announced Gink and gasoline at the fly fishing trade show last weekend and it was very well received. I only have two weeks os stats but in 14 days we have seen over 3200 visits and over 133000 hits and traffic seems to be google rich. The biggest company in the biz wants to advertise with us. I’m meeting a developer next week to work out a unique advertising platform. I couldn’t be happier with how it’s going. Thanks again for the help!”

SRL blogging workshop alum Caleb Spivak is shaking up Atlanta with his dishy blog,,which has been referenced in every major media outlet in the city since it’s inception, including CNN.

SRL Book Writers Boot Camp alum, Christal Presley just landed a book deal for her manuscript 30 Days with My Father, a harrowing memoir on having been raised in a household saturated with post trauma. Her publishing company is the same that pumps out the Chicken Soup for the Soul series.

Tom Wood, just days after completing the SRL Book Writers Boot Camp, landed the interest of this new York super agent for his riveting manuscript, Trading Steel for Stone: Tales of a Rustbelt Redneck Turned Rocky Mountain Rescuer. Here is the response he got from his query letter:

Hi Tom,
Thanks for your query. I enjoyed these opening pages, and would be happy to see the rest of the manuscript. At your convenience, could you send it along? Electronic attachment would be great.  Thanks.  I look forward to reading it.  In the meantime, if you have any questions for me, please don’t hesitate to ask. 
best, Andrea

To learn how to get yourself a literary agent and land your own book deal, enroll in the Shocking Real Life Book Writers Boot Camp!

Read below about SRL alums who became best sellers!

mommy doesn't drink

Another Shocking Real-Life Alumni Becomes a Best Seller!

Rachael Brownell, author of Mommy Doesn’t Drink Here Anymore, became a best-selling author after taking this Shocking Real-Life “Develop and Sell Your Memoir” workshop. Her book, a series of funny and touching anecdotes about early motherhood and recovery, came out in August ’09 and she’s since been on the Today Show, Good Morning America and NPR. Visit her website and see for yourself. Brownell was also a contributor to a popular department of called Strollerderby, which served as a great platform for her book. (Click HERE to see how to make YOUR blog a platform for your upcoming book).

Rachael Brownell’s testimonial:

“I wanted to THANK YOU, Hollis, for your workshop. It played a crucial role in being able to complete and submit a successful book proposal.”

To see how she did it, go to Shocking Real-Life Book Writers Boot Camp Weekend, A Novel Writers Retreat to Jump Start Your Novel 

January 7–8, 2012, 11:00am – 5:00pm

REGISTER NOW! (Credit-card users, after clicking on the button below, look for the credit-card icon at the bottom left of the screen and click “continue.”)

More Success Stories:

Lisa Baron


Shocking Real Life graduate Lisa Baron, an award-winning columnist and former aide to Christian Coalition founder Ralph Reed, landed a book deal with Citadel for her memoir MY BURNING BUSH: HOW ONE WOMAN’S CAREER IN CHRISTIAN POLITICS WENT UP IN FLAMES. It’s a Chelsea Handler-meets-George Stephanopoulos exploration of the dismantling of the conservative movement — and why young (drinking, chain-smoking, and, well, you get it) political campaign staffers sometimes go rogue.

TWO QUESTIONS with Lisa Baron:

1. How excited ARE you about your first book deal?
Lisa: The percentage of first time authors receiving book deals is very low. But I had two things working for me that I believe made the difference: determination and Hollis Gillespie’s kick ass work shop!

2. How did the Shocking Real Life “Secrets to Writing & Selling Your First Book” Workshop help you?
Lisa: Hollis’ workshop confirmed that I had a sellable idea and that I was on the right track. The workshop gave me the confidence I needed to continue following my dream of becoming a published author. [Hollis] was key to helping me fine-tune my proposal and her personal involvement in my journey has been invaluable.

CONGRATS, LISA! (Look for my blurb on the back cover!)


mustard seeds

SRL alumn Lynn Coulter‘s book Mustard Seeds: Thoughts on the Nature of God and Faith was released by B&H Books in September 2008. It earned a starred review from  Publisher’s Weekly and netted the author a second book deal.


SRL alumn Susan Contreras, graduate of “Publish Your Personal Essay” says, “It’s one of the best things I ever did for my writing career! By the end of the class, Hollis had helped me take one of those crazy ideas in my head and turn it into a finished essay, ready to be emailed to an editor. Within two months, that essay led directly to two assignments from a senior editor at Family Circle magazine.”


Wendy Merrill’s juicy tell-all, Falling Into Manholes; the Memoir of a Bad/Good Girl was just published by G. P. Putnam’s Sons.

Amanda Lamb

Amanda Lamb’s book, Smotherhood, Wickedly Funny Confessions from the Early Years, was released by Skirt! press in 2007. Congratulations, Amanda! Her book is a laugh-riot “momoir” told in a series of interconnected vignettes. Amanda’s second book, Deadly Dose, will be coming out this year from Berkeley.


Dixie Feldman, just landed a book deal with HarperCollins to publish her manuscript The Lost Art of Being a Dame (working title).


Corinne Humphrey‘s book The Tao of Rudy was recently published by Sage Press.


You Can Beat the Odds, by Brenda Stockdale

SRL Alum Brenda Stockdale’s book, You Can Beat the Odds: Surprising Factors Behind Chronic Illness & Cancer–and the 6-Week Breakthrough Program for Optimal Immunity (Sentient Press, ’09), debuted at the top of Amazon’s list of cancer-recovery books. Harvard scientist, best selling author Joan Borysenko wrote of Brenda’s book, “If you read only one health book this year, this should be the one.”


Rhiannon Bowman, SRL alumnus, now regularly writes for Charlotte magazine, Charlotte’s Creative Loafing – where she also blogs, and several other media organizations. She’s even a 2011 recipient of a GOLD Gamma award for profile writing! Keep up with her at (

You can be the next Shocking Real-Lifer to get a book deal! Check out our class schedule and get working on your book today!

What past particpants say about the Shocking Real-Life Writing Seminar:

“I made contact (totally used your letter) with a friend’s agent at Writer’s House. It worked! Now he wants to see the proposal. They loved the idea of the 5 People You Meet in Heaven, but from a female perspective. Thanks again! The class was great.” — Stephanie Davis, Editor, skirt! Magazine

“Hollis Gillespie’s writing workshop was the best I’ve ever attended.  Hollis was extremely encouraging and helpful in both creative and procedural modes.  And the yellow theme with the mimosas worked at a deep level of community which added to the enjoyment of the whole experience.” — David Ryback

Hollis Gillespie Atlanta Writing Class“Hollis is a rule-breaker who will teach you things you won’t hear anywhere else.  If you don’t care about political correctness and want to learn a proven tactic to get an agent’s attention, Hollis can show you the way.” — Debbie Unterman

“Hollis and crew were positive and upbeat. ‘Can’t’ wasn’t spoken. The environment and food were ‘quirky and fun,’ one of the underlying themes of the workshop and Hollis’s principles: build a support system of writers, share your work and contacts, and hit the send, send, send button on your computer made sense. The ‘fuck fear’ and the agent list was an added bonus.” — Lynn Hesse

“The Hollis Gillespie workshop was money well spent and the day went by very quickly!  Hollis took time with each person to help them clarify details of the story that they’d like to tell, develop a creative title, found similar books to use as examples in a pitch letter and provided a list with a recommendation of an agent (or agents) to contact.  Hollis gave concise, realistic feedback to each person.  As an added bonus both Grant Henry and Michael Alvear spoke and each offered excellent advice. I came home and began work immediately on my story! I’m impressed by Hollis and Michael’s philosophy of helping other writers.  Thank you for offering this wonderful seminar to Atlanta Writers Club members.” — Sharon LeMaster

“It was a great experience and nice to sit around a table with others who are dealing with the same obstacles I am.  I liked the advice given to ignore conventions and rules when querying agents and publishers which I will paraphrase: as long as it’s well written, go for it regardless of the ‘supposed’ hurdles or rules.  Receiving a rejection doesn’t necessarily mean you’re work isn’t any good or you didn’t follow the rules. I liked having published authors talk about their personal experiences and paths to success using somewhat unconventional means. I spent part of yesterday putting the advice in practice and sent out several queries with an entirely different attitude.” — Kathy Lewis

Shocking Real-Life Book Writers Boot Camp WeekendA Novel Way to Jump Start Your Novel


January 7–8, 2012, 11:00am – 5:00pm

Cost: $374

Includes finger food, champagne and inappropriate conversation.


Questions? For more information contact Hollis.