Northern Lehigh English teacher writes book
TERRY AHNER/TIMES NEWS Christopher Barnes, a seventh-grade English teacher at Northern Lehigh Middle School, proudly holds a copy of his first book, "180 Days".
Imagine what it would be like to chronicle each day in the life of a high school freshman.
Christopher Barnes was able to capture that progression through the self-publication of his book, "180 Days".
An English teacher at Northern Lehigh Middle School, Barnes said the idea to pen his own book came before he became a teacher five years ago.
"I thought, what about a first perspective story about a character like my students, and things they can relate to keep them interested in reading," Barnes said. "I thought, what about a one-day journal idea for all 180 days of school."
Barnes said he began to write the book on the first day, when the character is late to get up for school because the alarm wouldn't go off. From there, he said he continued to write for 10 days straight, until the book got pushed to the back burner as he got married, bought a home, and became a father over time.
The book, Barnes said, is an account of his personal experiences, both in his own life, as well as what he's experienced with the students he teaches.
"Ninth grade is a scary time, and the kids have no idea how to act," he said. "A lot of people who know me say they see a lot of me in the main character, even though she's a female."
Barnes discussed how he came up with the main character for his story, Anna Shields.
"What I wanted as my main goal is everything I want from the students I've had," he said. "Every year, I run into kids who are good kids, but they're not sure what they want to be, and my character finds that."
Barnes said he's happy with the reception his book has received.
"I just did it to write a book and get some kid interested in reading and get them interested in what I've done," he said. "My students really get into it, and I enjoy seeing my students holding my book."
Barnes said he specifically designed the book so that students wouldn't have to read it all at once.
"It's good for the reader who doesn't want to read huge chapters," he said. "If they read one page a day, it will take them through a year of school."
Barnes explained how he came up with the idea for the front cover of his book.
"I wanted it to look very high schoolish," he said. "It's still cool to see my book; it's humbling when one of my students ask 'can you please sign this'."
The self-publishing aspect of his book proved to be an arduous task at times, Barnes said.
"Ten times I read my book," he said. "The editing part came natural, because I used to edit a newspaper for seven years."
Barnes described his transition from writing to teaching.
"To be my own author is my dream job; teaching is my favorite job," he said. "I still love writing to this day, and I always encourage my kids to be creative."
Anna Shields is in one of the worst places at one of the worst times ever. High school, ninth grade, the teen years. She is self-conscious, shy, unsure of who her true friends are, and never able to open her locker. Yet she is wise beyond her years, in love with her English class assignments and dreaming of bumping into the football team's quarterback (even though he doesn't know she exists). With no real audience in mind, Anna takes her pen and paper for a ride each school day, chronicling her entire freshmen year at Tilghman High School. Day 1 is about to begin and her snooze alarm is on its fourth go-around already. Only 179 to go ...
The novel is available in paperback, and as a downloadable PDF version from www.lulu.com/Barnes.