Charlotte Hays, along with co-author Gayden Metcalfe, has been dispensing official Southern etiquette and customs with a combination of charm, wit, and practical advice since the publication of their run-away best-seller Being Dead Is No Excuse: The Official Southern Ladies' Guide to Hosting the Perfect Funeral (Miramax/Hyperion). Part of the "Pastel Trilogy," Being Dead Is No Excuse was followed by Somebody Is Going to Die If Lilly Beth Doesn't Catch That Bouquet: The Official Southern Ladies' Guide to Hosting the Perfect Wedding (Hyperion), and the latest guide, Some Day You'll Thank Me for This: The Official Southern Ladies' Guide to Being a "Perfect" Mother (Hyperion). A native of the Mississippi Delta and recovering gossip columnist, Hays, along with Metcalfe, has traveled the country as a keynote speaker at women's organizations, church groups, literary festivals, and to any group in need of knowing when to serve cheese straws, the do's and don'ts of condolence letters, and the proper response to anything unpleasant. Hays and Metcalfe can be booked together or separately, but it's always more gracious to invite them both to speak.
Some Day You'll Thank Me for This is a loving and cheeky compendium of motherhood, Southern style. As Hays and Metcalfe reveal, mothers who hail from below the Mason-Dixon Line have their own unique credo to which they adhere at all costs. The way they see it, their most important goals in life are to rear ladies and gentlemen, drill an intimate knowledge of the family tree into their progeny's heads, and make sure they pass on their silver to only the most deserving of their offspring. Their hilarious talk on the subject carefully outlines the lessons every Southern mother worth her salted pecans instills in her daughters - good manners, ancestor worship, family silver, the ability to completely ignore anything unpleasant (whether it's watching someone eat a salad with the wrong fork or a summons to appear in court), the importance of getting into the right sorority, and guilt.
Capturing all the essential elements of a Southern wedding - humorous and otherwise - Somebody Is Going to Die If Lilly Beth Doesn't Catch That Bouquet is one part Steel Magnolias, two parts Junior League cookbook, and a dash of "Bridezillas." With a combination of reverence and razor-sharp wit, Hays and Metcalfe skewer Delta wedding traditions and serve them up with a perfectly chilled slice of Grandma Millie's Tomato Aspic. Luckily for anyone with a wedding to plan, whether it's a tulle-strewn pageant or a surreptitious shotgun wedding, they reveal salient and previously un-written Southern mores.
Being Dead Is No Excuse, which was nominated for a Quill Award and won a Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance (SIBA) award, reveals the secrets to sending loved ones off with a bang - Delta style. Hays and Metcalfe offer a mixture of narrative flavored with must-serve foods, including three recipes for homemade mayonnaise and six recipes for pimento cheese (also known as Delta paté). After hearing them speak, audiences will understand why one Delta native, on being thanked for attending the funeral, blurted out, "No, thank you! I wouldn't have missed it for the world." A national best-seller, Being Dead outsells the Bible in the largest Episcopal bookstore in Texas.
Hays is a recovering gossip columnist - she was once described as "a former gossip columnist at home in the world of ideas" - who thanks her late mother for teaching her this art form. Hays covered society, entertainment, and political figures in both New York and Washington and has been a feature writer for the Washington Times, the Washingtonian, and was the Washington bureau chief for the National Catholic Register. She wrote thrice-weekly gossip columns for the Washington Times and the New York Daily News. The eclectic list of publications for which Hays has written includes the National Review, Town & Country, New York magazine, the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post Book World, the New York Observer, Policy Review, New Republic, and the Weekly Standard. She was a reporter at the Figaro and Courier in New Orleans, and is the former editor of The Women's Quarterly, which was published by the Independent Women's Forum (where she remains a senior fellow). Her book Fortune Hunters: Dazzling Women and the Men They Married, is a guide on how women can make Midas marriages. (Hint: Beauty is less important than other characteristics.) Forbes called Fortune Hunters a "sassy, irreverent" book.
Currently, Hays edits In Character magazine, which is published by the John Templeton Foundation. She is a native of Greenville, Mississippi, but she now lives in Washington, D.C. She plans to atone for this absence by being dead in Greenville.
Praise for Charlotte Hays:
"Gayden Metcalfe and Charlotte Hays gave a delightfully entertaining talk on Gracious Southern Hospitality to our Club membership. Their wit and humor were engaging as they had everyone laughing through stories of hosting funerals, planning weddings, and raising families (from their books). Ladies from all generations and locations will relate to the anecdotes in the books AND the recipes will make you hungry! We would highly recommend them for your next speaking engagement."
-- Sara Nunn, Women's Club of Salisbury Country Club
Praise for Being Dead is No Excuse:
"[It] is sure to have Southern hostesses nodding their perfectly coiffed heads in unison. Think of it as a primer from your favorite, if somewhat eccentric, aunt."
-- USA Today
"If you want a good laugh... pick up a copy of Being Dead Is No Excuse. And if you are a Southerner, you will laugh until the tears come."
-- Washington Post
"To die tastefully in the Delta, your mourners should dine well. To read Being Dead Is No Excuse is to participate vicariously in a succulent feast."
-- Hodding Carter
"As Southern as cheese straws, as peculiar as the Mississippi Delta, and as irreverent as the book's Crocheted-Bedpan-Award."
-- Curtis Wilkie, Author of Dixie: A Personal Odyssey Through the Events that Shaped the Modern South
"Most impressive about Being Dead Is No Excuse is its ability to go beyond being just another regional book of local color and appeal to those born outside the South."
"[Gayden Metcalfe and Charlotte Hays] expose the culinary and cultural last rites of the deep South in a fashion that is as sidesplitting as it is politically incorrect, as sincere as it is backstabbingly brutal."
-- Publishers Weekly