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The Lion's Den This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

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     I nervously check the sharpness of my pencils. Just another minute or two and I'll be in the lion's den, interviewing Ira Glass of NPR radio fame. All the hours listening to his show and all the time thinking of possible questions have come down to this opportunity to find out this revered journalist's view of the world.

When we finally are led backstage by a producer, I expect a posh room filled with the intellectuals who help create "This American Life" every week. Instead, we're led to a tiny room filled with couches, a half-eaten catered buffet, and people frantically scribbling notes. As it turns out, the live show scheduled for that night is way too long and must be cut. Ira Glass suddenly emerges and we make hasty introductions. He's of average height and looks younger than his 40-odd years, thanks to smooth skin and a messy wad of curly black hair. Thick black-rimmed glasses (like Woody Allen) crown his face.

On first impression, Mr. Glass looks a little nerdy and it's a shock to hear the familiar, dryly amused radio voice coming from a real person. Rosie and I sit down and dig into the questions. Mr. Glass is normally on the other side of the interview, and pretty soon we're all discussing the questions ourselves instead of sticking to the usual format.

We've taken care to choose challenging questions, and a couple of times he seems nearly flummoxed, scratching his head and laughing, "These are hard!" But he thinks carefully and takes each one seriously. When I ask whether he thinks popular or unpopular kids have more pressures, he says honestly, "Well, it's hard to sympathize with the popular kids ... I was always a bit of a nerd myself."

As soon as we start talking, I forget that I'm nervous. Mr. Glass has the slightly goofy, relaxed charm that naturally puts people at ease. That's why he manages to get genuine, revealing stories from so many people. He treats us as equals, a refreshing change from most adults, and wants to know where we go to school and what kinds of kids we are. It occurs to me that this is what "This American Life" is - it's just a genuine, nice guy interested in the lives of people.

What Mr. Glass has to say is particularly relevant to me, an aspiring writer. He knows the value of crafting characters that make a story come alive. When I ask if he ever gets writers' block, a frequent affliction for me, he nods vehemently.

All of a sudden we look at our watches and realize we've been talking for almost an hour. We shake hands, take pictures and then we're hustled out the door. When John Meyer, publisher of Teen Ink, asks about getting tickets to the show, the producer is very apologetic, explaining they're sold out. We decide to get dinner and then try again. When we return, the theater is filling with 20-somethings. I'm surprised because I think of NPR as a radio station for those over 50, but "This American Life" has a cult following of young people.

Five minutes before the show starts, John miraculously produces tickets! We dash into the theater and stumble through the dark to our seats. Immediately Ira Glass walks to his desk on stage amid cheers. In his soft, amused voice, he begins telling a story about a young man obsessed with the old Chicago architecture, and it again feels like he's talking just to me. When he makes a mistake, he laughs at himself and goes on. The audience laughs with him, and I understand why his show is so loved: it's all about simplicity. It's just a guy sitting at a desk, weaving tapestries that are sad and funny and very, very real. It's everyone's American life.

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.




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