NPR Staff

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?"

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.

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.

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.

In 1966, author A.E. Hotchner published Papa Hemingway, the memoir of his 13-year friendship and many conversations with Ernest Hemingway, who had taken his own life a few years earlier.

The book's publication was contested and controversial — Hemingway's widow, his fourth wife, Mary, went to court to block it. She failed, and the book came out.

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.

Welcome to the third session of the Morning Edition Reads book club! Here's how it works: A well-known writer will pick a book he or she loved. We'll all read it. Then, you'll send us your questions about the book. About a month later, we'll reconvene to talk about the book with the author and the writer who picked it.

The World Health Organization made an announcement Monday that's likely to come as a blow to anyone whose favorite outdoor snack is a hot dog.

Processed meats — yes, hot dogs, plus sausage, ham, even turkey bacon — are cancer-causing, a committee of scientists with WHO's International Agency for Research on Cancer concluded. And it classified red meat as "probably carcinogenic to humans."

We'd like to visit a place that you've likely been before — maybe not in real life, but in your imagination. It's a land that inspired heffalumps and expotitions (yes, that spelling's correct). In real life, it's a forest in southeast England — but you know it as Winnie the Pooh's Hundred Acre Wood.

The setting is sort of the quintessential English countryside: Rolling hills, trees, squares of farmland, heather and gorse and a perfectly blue sky day — perhaps the only thing that's not very English about the setting.

For the pious Puritans of early America, witchcraft was a crime of the highest order.

Back then, the term "witch hunt" was not just an expression: In 1692, 19 women and men were hanged and one pressed to death with stones after being found guilty of witchcraft.

In her book The Witches, author Stacy Schiff follows the buildup of fear and outrageous tales of consorting with the devil. The witch trials were set in motion by two young Salem girls in the grip of strange and disturbing symptoms.

"The Unicode Consortium" may sound like the dark cabal of villains in a James Bond movie. And though they aren't plotting world domination in a volcano lair, they do hold a lot of power — over your text messages.

The Unicode Consortium's job has always been to make basic symbols work across all computers and other devices, but the emoji has put the group at the center of pop culture.

Lewis Carroll's Wonderland is a singular place. It's a place that symbolizes the beauty and strange, illogical nature of childhood; a place that has captivated children and adults for 150 years. This year, the anniversary of Alice in Wonderland has been celebrated in museums, and it's also being marked in literature.