NPR Staff

What's it like to be a 15-year-old girl, full of dreams but not sure how to make them become reality?

That's a question that NPR explored this fall in our series #15Girls. We sent reporters around the world. We met girls who faced all kinds of obstacles: gang violence, child marriage, unaffordable tuition fees. And we learned the plans they hatched to get ahead.

We asked our correspondents to share a moment that was critical in their reporting — a person they met, a scene they witnessed that helped shape the story they told.

Chef and food writer Kenji Lopez-Alt recently paid a visit to old stomping grounds: the Boston area, home to his alma mater, MIT.

He helped prepare one dinner at Roxy's Grilled Cheese, a small, hip sandwich shop in the Allston neighborhood, to share a recipe from his new book The Food Lab: Better Home Cooking Through Science.

Five years ago, the world was riveted by the plight of 33 miners trapped deep underground in Chile. For 69 days, we waited to see if the men would survive the collapse of a gold and copper mine. Then came a miraculous ending: All the miners were carried to safety in a tiny capsule called The Phoenix.

StoryCorps' Memory Loss Initiative supports and encourages people with various forms of memory loss to share their stories with loved ones and future generations.

Teresa Valko lives in California, and her mother, 80-year-old Evelyn Wilson, lives in Georgia. They keep in touch with regular phone conversations.

Eight years ago, Wilson began to show symptoms of memory loss.

Over the past few weeks, NPR has featured the stories of 15-year-old girls all over the globe as part of our #15Girls series. These young women are pushing back against parental expectations, cultural norms and economic hardship and taking charge of their future.

Many of you told us you were surprised and inspired by these stories. And lots of you wanted to know more. Below, we've asked our reporters to answer some of your queries.

Stan Lee is a legend. Along with artists Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko, Lee helped populate the Marvel Comics universe with heroes like the Fantastic Four, the Incredible Hulk and Iron Man.

Their most famous creation — Lee calls him "Spidey" — is everywhere in this office, as a painting, a life-size doll, and even a pinball machine. "Nobody plays pinballs anymore," Lee tells NPR's Renee Montagne. "And it's really a good thing, because it doesn't work anymore."

Back in 1986, Allen Toussaint told All Things Considered that he could write a song from the scraps of a joke, or from snippets of conversations. If the occasion called for it, he could even fashion writer's block into verse.

"Well, how do you write a song?" he offered, playfully. "Do you make it short? Do you make it long? Is there any right? Is there any wrong? Just how do you write a song?"

Jihae Shin was a graduate student at the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School, preparing to enter the academic job market. She had set her sights on finding a fabulous faculty position, but wasn't sure she was going to get one.

The safe thing was to have a backup plan — to apply for a number of other jobs as well. But the thought of doing so made her worried: would the presence of the backup options diminish her motivation to get the job she really wanted?

Shonda Rhimes will be the first to admit she didn't expect to be famous. Hollywood is notoriously uncharitable to writers, but the success of her company ShondaLand — the force behind the ABC top-rated dramas Grey's Anatomy, Scandal and How to Get Away with Murder — has made her a household name.

Astronauts Scott Kelly and Kjell Lindgren left the International Space Station on Friday for their second spacewalk in less than two weeks. Their assignment was to configure a vent door on the port side ammonia tank. That meant they were outside the space station, tied only with a tether, floating in outer space.

Author Michael Cunningham was fascinated by fairy tales as a child — but he always wondered what happened after the story ended. His new collection, A Wild Swan, tries to answer that question.

Cunningham spoke with NPR's Rachel Martin on how one story ends and another begins.

Interview Highlights

On what happens after the happily-ever-after

GOP presidential candidate Ben Carson has been having a rough couple of days. In the past 48 hours, several news organizations have raised questions about aspects of his past.

But even as he's weathered the increased media scrutiny, this week also saw Carson grab headlines for a decidedly different campaign milestone: He dropped a rap song.

As part of a series called My Big Break, All Things Considered is collecting stories of triumph, big and small. These are the moments when everything seems to click, and people leap forward into their careers.

A lot of men might like to get a letter from Mary-Louise Parker. She's written more than 30 to some of the men who've been important in her life: The grandfather she never got the chance to know. Her childhood priest. A Hollywood accountant. A man who will one day love her daughter. Her father. And they're all in a new book, Dear Mr. You. She tells NPR's Scott Simon that her father loved words. "We used to send poems back and forth in the mail, and go and sit in book stores together and talk about books and read books. He informs everything I do and everything I say, really.

In this extended version of NPR's interview with Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, portions of which aired earlier this week on Morning Edition, the presidential candidate makes his case differently. Having been wrong-footed several times by his Democratic rival Hillary Clinton, Sanders is joining the battle more forcefully and talking more personally than in the past.

Dalton Trumbo was a successful Hollywood screenwriter in the 1930s. Like other writers, his anti-fascism and pro-working-class politics led him to join the American Communist Party. Then in the '40s, Trumbo was part of a group of screenwriters who were blacklisted for being Communists. He was subpoenaed by the House Un-American Activities Committee and after he refused to cooperate, he served a one-year prison sentence for contempt of Congress.

Sometimes politicians just aren't that funny. That's a lesson Seth Meyers, host of Late Night, has learned covering the campaigns from the his vantage point — comedy.

The current presidential campaign is the butt of many of his jokes these days — "so many butts, there are so many butts in this campaign," Meyers quipped to David Greene, host of NPR's Morning Edition.

Instant ramen noodles are often looked upon with scorn as cheap food for starving college kids.

But as a new book points out, those noodles are like gold for people in prison.

Gustavo "Goose" Alvarez spent more than a decade locked up on a weapons charge, among others. And during that time, he grew to love ramen noodles. Along with a childhood friend, Clifton Collins Jr., he put together a new book of recipes called Prison Ramen: Recipes And Stories From Behind Bars.

In 2013, the actor Leah Remini left the Church of Scientology after more than 30 years. Her new memoir, Troublemaker, might make her the most famous former Scientologist to publicly criticize the religion. (The Church calls the book "revisionist history.")

The story starts when Remini was nine, growing up in Brooklyn. Her dad had just left, and her mom got a new boyfriend. He was a Scientologist. Her mom joined the church, too.

From El Salvador to Lebanon to Nepal, NPR has been exploring the lives of 15-year-old girls around the world. But what's it like to be 15 in the U.S.? To find out, NPR's Michel Martin spoke with three sophomore girls at Montgomery Blair High School in Silver Spring, Md.

Author Robert Galbraith just loves the band Blue Öyster Cult — in fact, lyrics from the band are all over his latest book, Career of Evil, the third novel in the Cormoran Strike series.

"To be honest, it's the guitar hook. I'm a real sucker for guitars," laughs Galbraith — otherwise known as J.K Rowling. "I've had a crush on many, many a guitarist."

For his third album as Neon Indian, Alan Palomo wanted to take his time. Born in Mexico and raised in Texas, the electronic artist came to music slowly and indirectly — despite having watched his brother learn voice and guitar from their father growing up.

This week, the Chinese government announced a major change: all Chinese families will now be permitted to have two children.

For 35 years, the nation's one-child policy shaped the lives of millions of people around the world — including Ricki Mudd.

Mudd is one of more than 100,000 children, mostly girls, who have been adopted from China since the early 1990s. But unlike many adoptees, Mudd knows her backstory.

She was born to a rural family, in a region where there was intense pressure to have a boy. So her family hid her away, hoping they'd have a son.

The presidential race is close; the gloves come off and the campaigns go negative.

Sound familiar?

That's the premise of the new film Our Brand Is Crisis — which is set in Bolivia, not the contemporary U.S. — and the competing advisers for the two campaigns in the movie include a legendary political strategist who looks a lot like Sandra Bullock.

In the mid-1960s a young David Hare was touring the U.S. in a somewhat unlikely way: He'd gotten a job cleaning and repainting a beach house for a therapist in Los Angeles, and she had arranged for him to stay with a succession of her patients as he traveled around the country.

"I knew what their problems were because I'd redone her filing system ..." Hare tells NPR's Scott Simon. "It certainly gave me a highly colored view of America for the first time."

In September 1975, Time magazine featured decorated Vietnam veteran Leonard Matlovich on the cover. His name was clearly visible on his Air Force uniform, and the headline read: "I Am a Homosexual."

Matlovich — who had come out in a letter to his commanding officer before the cover ran — was challenging the military ban on gay service members.

NPR Music editors have determined that phrases in 10 stories filed jointly on the NPR Music and WQXR websites were copied from other sources without attribution. They were written for NPR and WQXR by Brian Wise, the online editor at WQXR, a classical radio station owned by New York Public Radio. Effective Oct. 28, Mr. Wise resigned following the discovery of plagiarism in these stories.

Sure, our smartphones know a lot about who we are.

If you have an Android smartphone, you may not know that Google saves all of the voice commands you give it. They're archived online in your Google account.

If you play today's massively multiplayer online role-playing games — World of Warcraft or Final Fantasy, for example — you have a 1970s tabletop game to thank, says author Michael Witwer.

Witwer has just written a biography of Gary Gygax, the co-creator of Dungeons & Dragons.

"Even first-person shooters like Call of Duty have some of the roots at least in tabletop role-playing games," he tells NPR's Ari Shapiro.