WALNUT CREEK -- Establishing a young person's dinner table etiquette used to be parental territory. But with today's do-all, be-all, double-earner families, such duties often fall by the wayside. After all, why bother with which fork to use, when mealtime is often a sandwich in an SUV on the way to soccer practice?

Enter Wynne Dalley, a Danville author and former owner/operator during the mid-1980s of Walnut Creek's British School of Modeling. With two slim "Be Cool & Confident" guidebooks, one for girls and another for boys, Dalley now slays the dragons threatening teenage personal appearance and good manners in less than 120 pages.

Tell Me Press recently published Dalley's books, and a tour is bringing her message about the importance of nutrition, fashion, etiquette and self-respect to Bay Area young people and adults. The next scheduled appearance is Saturday, May 17, from 1 to 3 p.m. at the Barnes & Noble store in Antioch.

Drawing from her teen years, growing up outside of London in the 1950s, Dalley said in an interview that fashion had yet to reach the "wonderful renaissance" of the 1960s.

"We wore a younger version of what our aunties wore -- I suffered," she said. Ten years later, Dalley was a professional fashion model working in tea rooms and department stores. Lucie Clayton recognized Dalley's business and coaching potential and soon, she was producing high fashion models for the Lucie Clayton Grooming and Modeling School in London. She met her husband, now deceased, at a fashion shoot; when he received a semester-long invitation to teach and write at UC Berkeley, she came along.

"We had two sons and people said, 'Settle in Walnut Creek.' It was a charming town -- and still is," Dalley said.

It was also a place to establish a school with the curriculum she felt Californians needed urgently. "Since it's so casual and healthy here, other characteristics are overlooked in the teaching of girls and boys," she said.

Her books cover the gamut: being gracious, shaking hands, making eye contact, tying a tie, skin care, diet and exercise -- "and not being a sulky teen," she adds, laughing.

Because she touts antiquities, like "sit up straight" and the value of handwritten thank-you notes, Dalley is in some ways a throwback. But if her books read as a glance to the past, they also pitch forward. Chapter six of the boys' edition outlines cell phone and technology do's and don'ts. Chapter four in the guide for girls outlines nutrition and exercise tips. Both books have what Dalley said was the hardest subject to write about: substance abuse. "There's so much information out there and I didn't want to make the book all about one thing," Dalley explained. "It's serious. I just wanted to get one message over in a gentle way -- beware."

She also deliberately avoided advice relating to sexual activity or mental health illnesses, as those areas aren't her forte. "I'm an expert on the values of keeping yourself looking healthy and attractive," she said.

The messages she is eager to share (good grooming, respectful manners, skilled conversing and the like) boil down to a central premise -- how a teen behaves and expresses their self-respect through appearance is critical to a young person's success. Even a gorgeous, fashion-conscious model with good bone structure, she suggested, must have common sense and good manners. All teens entering the competitive college or job markets will impress people with their behavior as much as with their academic success, she added.

Dalley keeps current, reading Miss Manners and Dear Abby, but said their practical advice isn't exclusive to teens. The guidelines Dalley offers in her two books are. And her straight-to-the-point language is designed not to lose today's busy kids. She has no time to open another school and says getting the message out in bookstores reminds her that even grownups don't always know the basics. "Good manners are the same everywhere and will take a person anywhere in the world," Dalley said. "There isn't one courtesy for every little rudeness. If you're basically respectful, everything falls into place."

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