Help from friends

Journalism, hot professors and an event supporting Mandy Johnston

Last week, I had the pleasure of talking about journalism to high school students from Arcata who visited Chico for a couple of days. I'd rounded up some friends and colleagues from various Northern California newspapers—including this one, The Sacramento Bee and the San Francisco Chronicle—to give the kids a good variety of speakers. I owe them.

A former local journalist who now teaches English and a newspaper class roped me into organizing the event and I should thank him for doing so. The kids were funny and engaging, and they listened to me gush about storytelling and the importance of this difficult and beautiful profession I fell in love with 15 years ago. It was invigorating in a way I hadn't expected.

The workshop couldn't have come at a busier time for me, professionally and personally. I'd recently returned from vacation with a nasty case of bronchitis and was buried in a week's worth of messages. I also needed to work on a photo display for my dad's 70th birthday party that Saturday. And to top it off, our cover story on hot professors hit a major snag late last week on deadline. We couldn't get a hold of enough people who have the distinction of being ranked on as a so-called flaming red chili pepper—our premise for the story.

I have math instructor Mark Mavis to thank for the piece coming together. As I told him when we sat down at Midtown Local on Monday afternoon, days after deadline for that story, his interview was the last piece of the puzzle. Mavis, whom I'd never met before that day, was a good sport and so were the three other interviewees who trusted us to do what we'd intended—profile them and the good work they do in education. After last week, I have a better understanding of the reasons people go into teaching.

Classes at Chico State and Butte College begin on Monday. Welcome back, students! And good luck, educators!

Switching gears now, I want to let readers know about Feed Your Soul—an upcoming special event being organized by the folks at Bacio Catering & Carryout and Six Degrees Coffee in honor of their beloved friend Mandy Johnston and her husband, John Pearson. I wrote about Mandy a few months ago in this space. She's one of the nicest people in Chico and she's battling cancer. Her friends in the local foodie community have rallied around her, putting together a crowdfunding campaign to help alleviate the financial burden the young couple faces as Mandy undergoes treatment.

This new fundraising effort is a farm-to-fork dinner up in beautiful and cool Butte Meadows on Saturday, Aug. 29, and it sounds amazing. Several local farms are collaborating with the caterer to provide attendees with fresh and local organic greens, cheese and slow-braised meats. The moonlit event is billed as an uplifting evening, complete with wine and beer, music, and, of course, the good company of Mandy's friends and loved ones. For more info and to purchase tickets, go to and search for Feed Your Soul.