Pretty Southern

What does it mean to be a Southerner in the 21st century?

Archive of ‘Variety’ category

Matt Stafford’s Wedding Video

Matt Stafford Wedding Party

Mrs. Matt Stafford with their groomsmen

Y’all know we’re big Georgia Dawgs fans here at Pretty Southern, so we’re excited to share Matt Stafford’s Wedding Video – filmed by the fabulous Elysium Productions!

Matt Stafford married longtime girlfriend Kelly Hall on April 4, 2015. The wedding ceremony and reception took place at The Foundry at Puritan Mill in Atlanta.

Our top 5 favorite moments from Mr. & Mrs. Matt Stafford’s wedding are:

  1. Kelly’s custom “Mrs. #9″ sneakers
  2. The airbrushed hats and brand new Nike sneakers for all the wedding guests
  3. Varsity food truck for late night wedding bites
  4. Wedding band Party on The Moon definitely rocked the party
  5. All the details and event styling by Toast Events

Here’s an intimate look at Mr. & Mrs. Matt Stafford’s big day in Atlanta.


Soundtrack: “Moments Like This” by The Afters // licensed through // // // // // // //

Hunter S. Jones – The South’s Self-Publishing Guru

Hunter S. Jones
If y’all haven’t heard of Hunter S. Jones, then check out her insane following on social media with 35,000 followers on Twitter, almost 12,000 likes on Facebook and hundreds of raving reviews on Goodreads. Pretty Southern recently sought out the acclaimed author to learn more about the secrets of her success and how she became the South’s self-publishing guru.

How did you discover your passion for writing?
I’ve always written something. It’s always been the thing I do. Some people play music, sing, dance, act, or paint. I have always been a writer.


What was the first thing you ever published?
In high school and college, I wrote for the schools papers. After graduating, I wrote for a couple of low budget rock papers in Nashville. It was great! I wrote various music and special interest stories for the Chattanooga newspaper. But, the first time someone sent a check to pay me was following an article I wrote for the Whitfield County, Ga., paper. I wrote a lovely article about the Rev. Howard Finster and Paradise Garden. “Serendipity in the Garden” was the articles name. I had no idea they were going to pay me for the story, so you can imagine how excited I was to receive a check from them. Getting paid for doing what you enjoy is such an incredible experience, isn’t it?

Did you study writing in college?
Yes, I studied creative writing but my emphasis was on English Literature.

Tell us about your Southern roots. You were born and raised in Tennessee, what brought you to Atlanta?
This is my second residency in Atlanta. The first one was in the early 1990s. It was awesome! I worked as a make-up artist. What fun to be young and around so many creative people. My late mother became ill, and I returned to Tennessee to be with the family. That’s when I entered corporate America. After spending 17 years in sales and marketing with an international corporation, I was downsized. My husband and I decided Atlanta offers more, took a gamble and moved here. We love Atlanta!

How would you define a Southerner in the 21st century?
Great question. There’s so much controversy about this topic right now, isn’t there? To me, it means family and our family’s history. Our farm has been in the family since Tennessee became a state. It gives a person a sense of place, a sense of belonging to something bigger than you. Right now is the greatest time to be a Southerner. Atlanta is the #11 financial power globally. We have opportunities never before offered to our region. It seems that we should stop looking to the past and look toward what the future holds for us. One of my grandfather’s was a coal-miner yet I’ve visited 63 countries around the globe. My husband is British. Life is nothing like it was for our parents and grandparents. Southerners have so many opportunities that haven’t been available before now.

We are the Newest New South and I believe it will be the best one yet.

What was the first book you self-published (September Ends, right)?
September Ends was released in 2013. You are absolutely correct. Thank you for that.
Editor’s note – Hunter’s books also include September Again, September First, September Verses, Fortune Calling, and Tales From a New Amsterdam: Britain.


The Fortune Series by Hunter S. Jones

You have an amazing following on social media. How did you grow your “tribe”?
Having the blog on helped immensely in getting my name, or brand, recognized. I started writing about unknown bands, or regionally known bands. I’ve worked with Fringe and off-Broadway theatre groups. Both of these added to the ‘Tribe’ as you call it. Really, social media is simply being social, isn’t it? If you are nice to everyone, they will be nice in return. I’ve always accepted friendship offers from anyone. There will always be people who want you to do everything for them, but I find that most people understand that art is a giving thing. The more you give, the more you get.

How did you get started on Goodreads and promote your presence there?
Another great question, Lauren. I do not know the exact answer to this. I opened an account on Goodreads, added all my Facebook and Twitter friends, and next thing you know, I’m at Goodreads friend limit. Goodreads is so complex. I mainly use it to find new books and rarely use it to sale or promote my own books.


How do you balance your sales work with your writing career?
Work is work and once business is completed, my mind is free to roam. I’m a great researcher, so often work breaks are used for research purposes. I carry a book bag with me at all times which is loaded with the core information I’m researching. My husband is very supportive. He says he can ‘see’ a change when I have connected with a story and he lets me write. How great is that? Although, I have been known to wake up, know the story is ready to be written and announce that I don’t want anyone bothering me until the story is completed.  As my late mom used to say, “Writers aren’t the easiest people to live with.” I love that because it is so true.

Look for PHOENIX RISING, a fictional story of the last hour of Anne Boleyn’s life, now available on Amazon.


8 Things I’ll Miss About Living in North Carolina

My family’s roots are in North Carolina. My parents were raised and went to college there, and I was born in a small town in the southeastern part of the state. We moved from North Carolina when I was 5 years old, but my extended family still lives here; my parents and I visit several times a year.

I spent the last year at Elon University, which is about 25 minutes east of Greensboro. Even though I’ve visited North Carolina several times a year for my whole life, living in the area has reminded me of what makes this state so special. Now that I’m moving to Tennessee for my first job out of grad school, I’ve been reflecting on my home state and what I’ll miss about living here. I’m definitely excited to move to a new city, but maybe I’m not quite ready to bid adieu to the great Tar Heel state.

Here are eight top reasons I’ll miss living in North Carolina.


Mmmm, Smithfield’s.

1. Barbecue: If you meet anyone from North Carolina and they claim they don’t like barbecue, they’re not telling the truth. Everyone in this state loves barbecue, and everyone has a staunch opinion on what kind of barbecue is superior. Lexington style (more common in western parts of the state) is sweeter and smoky, often topped with a tomato-based sauce. Eastern style is tangy and accompanied by a vinegar-based sauce. I’m a Lexington girl, but I will never say no to some Smithfield’s Chicken & BBQ (which is more Eastern). And down here, “barbecue” is a food, not something you do in the back yard.

Hey Smithfields, can y’all air-drop me some ‘cue once a month or so?

2. Beaches: To me, nothing beats a North Carolina beach. My dad grew up going to Holden Beach on the southern coast, and my parents and I went there in the summers until I was 13. My grandfather then sold his beach house, and unfortunately we haven’t been back. I have the fondest memories of body-boarding in the playful waves, teaching myself to skimboard and hunting for the perfect seashells on the white sand. While I didn’t make it to the beach in the last year, it was nice knowing I was close enough to go if I wanted to.

biscuitville3. Biscuitville: I’m not kidding, y’all. Try one of their hot, delicious pimento cheese and bacon biscuits and tell me it’s not amazing. Watching the bakers knead the dough and cut out biscuits makes your mouth water in a hot second. Nothing beat a bacon-egg-and-cheese biscuit with cheese grits on a Saturday morning. Biscuitville over Bojangles, always.

4. Close to Family: This is the closest I’ve lived to my grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins since my parents and I lived in NC ourselves, way back in the 90s. My mom’s family all live outside of Charlotte, so they’re only about 2 hours from me at Elon. Weekend visits were easy and relaxing. It’s been so nice to be able to see them more often.

5. College (ACC) Basketball: With UNC, NC State, Wake Forest and Duke (barf) all close by, November through March or April (depending on how the seasons finished) are crazy with blue, red and gold. It’s a sin to like more than one North Carolina college team, so you learn to answer accordingly. We’re in the heart of ACC country so during those months there’s a game on my TV every day. I hope the SEC faithfuls in Tennessee won’t mind my ACC fandom. Do I have to learn to sing “Rocky Top” in return?

6. Southern Charm: This goes without saying. We’ll always smile and wave, even if we don’t know you from Adam. I know that’s all over the South, but I do love seeing it around here. North Carolina has so much charm to offer, from its cities to its small towns, from its mountains to its coasts, and everything in between.

7. Weather: Can we say “yes” to having all four seasons? The summers are stunning, if not a bit humid, and the winters are (usually) mild. We get a clear spring and a clear fall, even if they are a bit prolonged. My boots and scarves do get worn! And only some of us lose our minds when it snows…not all of us.

And lastly…

Red & white wines from Stony Mountain Vineyards, Albemarle, NC

Red & white wines from Stony Mountain Vineyards, Albemarle, NC

8. Wine & Beer: I’m not a big beer person, but oh my goodness, North Carolina wine is awesome. Traditional NC wine is made from scuppernong and muscadine grapes, which are sweeter than regular grapes, and twice as delicious. I loved exploring wineries in the Triad and tasting all of their varieties and blends. As for beer, Red Oak is king, followed by Natty Greene’s. Both are brewed fresh in Greensboro, and can be found in every grocery store’s beer aisle in Guilford and Alamance counties. If I could take Red Oak and some scuppernong wine to Tennessee, I totally would. Dearest North Carolina, you’ve always been good to me. This won’t be a goodbye, just a “see you later.” Plus, when my parents’ lake house is done, I’ll be visiting you a lot more often than twice a year.


Kate RobertsonKate Robertson is a features writer for Pretty Southern and a Virginia Tech alumna. She also holds an M.A. in Interactive Media from Elon University.

Born in North Carolina and raised in Georgia, Kate hopes to further her career as a social media maven and kick-ass writer in the lovely southeast.

Follow Kate on Twitter @kate3robertson and check out her blog, A Thought and a Half.


Get Fit at Freedom Fit Gym

Summer is coming, and that means swimsuit season is coming, too. Everyone wants to get in great shape to turn heads at the beach.


Joel (center) and his family celebrate Freedom Fit Gym’s grand opening!

For Joel McCauley, being fit and healthy isn’t just for summer. It’s an all-the-time routine and lifestyle. It’s this belief that lead Joel to open Freedom Fit Gym in Ashland, Va. He’s extremely excited about his small-business venture, and I’m so excited to share it with y’all here on Pretty Southern! After all, we do love our small businesses.

Joel is one of my close friends from college. He’s a certified personal trainer (CPT), and has wanted to open his own gym since he was a teenager. Helping people is in his blood. Operating his own gym gives Joel the opportunity to help people achieve their personal health and fitness goals and teach them about living healthfully. And going the small-business route lets him do it his way. He started working as a personal trainer just one month after graduating from college. He’s competed in baseball and track, and has also done bodybuilding competitions. All of his experience, combined with years of studies and research on the best methods, diets and healthful habits will help him help his clients at Freedom Fit Gym reach their goals.

“My hope is to create a space where people feel like they can come to better themselves,” Joel says. He wants Freedom Fit Gym to be a place “where people can come to make progress” toward their fitness goals and personal health.

ffgym-1At the gym, Joel offers open workout space with a wide variety of machines and equipment, personal training sessions and small-group bodyweight and powerlifting classes. In addition, he can craft custom nutrition plans to optimize clients’ diets for the best results.

Most of all, though, Joel knows that movement is a gift that should be celebrated. We are made to move, and Joel wants us to be able to celebrate our gifts to the best of our abilities, all year round.

“Now is the perfect time to get my dream started,” he says. “I can grow my business as long as people come to me.” And that’s just what we want, too!

Want to follow Joel’s journey and learn more about Freedom Fit Gym? He’s on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, and has a website and blog!

All photos courtesy of Joel McCauley.

Kate RobertsonKate Robertson is a features writer for Pretty Southern and a Virginia Tech alumna. She also holds an M.A. in Interactive Media from Elon University.

Born in North Carolina and raised in Georgia, Kate hopes to further her career as a social media maven and kick-ass writer in the lovely southeast.

Follow Kate on Twitter @kate3robertson and check out her blog, A Thought and a Half.


How to Survive Winter: a Guide from a Southerner Trapped in the North


If there’s one thing (most) Southerners are terrified of, it’s winter. Three months of cold temperatures, bitter winds and questionable weather forecasts is no one’s idea of a good time.  Gray and brown take over, as most flowers, plants and other vegetation have died or gone into their “hibernation.” Sometimes the sun doesn’t come out for a week; when it comes back, we’ve forgotten what it was.

And Heaven forbid it snows. What is snow, anyway?

After living in the Great White North, I’ve learned how to deal with winter and how to get through those long, gray days without losing my sanity. I’m no expert, but nine years (ugh) of experience in blizzards, subzero wind chills, icy roads and shoveling driveways has provided me with plenty of insights to share.

Here is my best advice on how to survive winter, straight from a misplaced Southerner.

Invest in a snow blower. My parents never had one for six of our years in Pennsylvania; our neighbors have one, and they graciously clear our driveway when snow strikes. But a few years ago, Mom broke down and bought one of our own. And you know what? We haven’t had a rough winter since. Omen? I’d like to think so.

Don’t buy cheap shovels. They break too easily. No one wants to hear that snap! in the middle of shoveling the driveway. It’s the worst. Shelling out for a sturdier shovel will be worth it later. Buy them early, too. The early bird gets the good shovel.

Don’t leave the house unless you absolutely have to. “I drive good in the snow,” said no Southerner ever. Cabin fever will eventually set in, and you’ll have to make a choice. For me, that choice is easy. As long as it’s cold and/or there’s snow on the ground, I’m staying inside.

Pull out all the thick, soft blankets and keep them within reach. Snow is much nicer when seen from inside, wrapped in a blanket, sipping on hot chocolate (or a Hot Toddy).

Stock up on the essentials well in advance (if possible). Sometimes icky winter weather strikes with little to no warning, and you may not have time to refill your supplies. If you do, though, bread, milk, eggs, peanut butter, soup and non-food items like batteries run out fast. May Publix be ever in your favor.

Check your flashlights and charge your electronics. Put fresh batteries in your flashlights and lanterns, and make sure your cell phones, tablets, etc. are fully charged. Power outages can happen, and they aren’t always resolved quickly. Be prepared.

And most importantly, be careful. I joke about snow and driving and cabin fever, but winter weather makes for treacherous driving and travel conditions. If you feel uneasy about being on the roads, by all means, stay in.

Remember, winter is short. Come March, the grass will be much greener on the other side…literally.

* This might be more applicable to our friends in Maryland and Virginia, where snow is a little more common. 

Kate RobertsonKate Robertson is a features writer for Pretty Southern, a Virginia Tech alumna, and a current graduate student at Elon University in North Carolina. She’s working toward her MA in Interactive Media, and afterwards hopes to further her career as a kick-ass writer.

Originally from Atlanta, Kate enjoys exploring the Piedmont region of North Carolina, especially its wide offerings of wineries. Follow her on Twitter @kate3robertson and check out her blog, A Thought and a Half.