Never Stop Moving by Maddie Thompson

If a whale shark stops swimming, it dies. Because of their lack of buccal muscles, the creatures rely on obligate ram ventilation, which means that oxygen enters their bodies through their mouths, which then filters to their gills. To get this oxygen in their mouths they have to keep them open, which requires constant movement to keep a consistent supply of new air in their bodies. The more they move, the longer they survive. 


I’ve been moving since I can remember. A hurricane baby is what they call kids like me. Instead of being born where I was supposed to, a storm named Katrina came in and pushed me out of what was going to be home. So, while my mother had a C-Section in Yakima, Washington, her heart was left in New Orleans, in a condo under ten feet of hurricane surge. Spray painted X on the door, where no bodies were found and a crib had floated to the den.

In the aftermath of the storm, my family did not move back to New Orleans right away. Instead, my mother and her two-week-old child migrated. Apparently I was silent until we landed, but when we arrived in Oklahoma City I greeted the world with fists raised and screams in my throat. We met up with my father in college housing left for evacuees.

I said my first words in that housing. My first giggle erupted from the back of my throat while sitting courtside at an NBA game. I took my first steps on my first birthday, running toward my Dad in the waddling way all babies first walk. According to my mom, I never crawled. I decided to walk one day, and the new form of movement made itself known from then on.

A year later we moved back home, our real home. New Orleans wasn’t much different.  I had been there once before, baptized in a funeral home because it was the only place available, but that was a business trip more than anything else. The same people habited the French Quarter, the same candied pralines and beignets were in supply and the same foul jokes were made. I spent my first Mardi Gras collapsed in a stroller, an empty beer clutched to my chest like a teddy bear. Dog whistle was what they called me later. Mouth always open, always screaming these high pitched warbles that made dogs turn their heads and old women in grocery stores grimace.


The average Whale Shark travels 5,000 miles a year, from Australia to South Africa to the coast of Mexico. They move mainly to replenish their food sources. If they swam around in circles, new food would never have the chance to emerge, so to make up for the 10,000 gallons of water they consume daily, whale sharks make the trek across the shallow end of the Atlantic every year. 


I was two when we moved again. Instead of 5,000 miles, I only went 713 to Charlotte, North Carolina. First an apartment, then a condo. I went to preschool and read for the first time. 

At three years old we moved into a house. I got kicked out of preschool, learned the tooth fairy wasn’t real and organized a protest against nap time. I bit and kicked and yelled and cried and suddenly dog whistle was not just a funny nickname but a cruel joke. Sound like a dog, act like one, I guess. “Constantly moving” is how a teacher described me. “Too much to handle,” said another.

I stayed in the house and waited for kindergarten to start. When that tried my patience, I went outside and threw some sticks at some trees, but no matter how much I moved I still felt stuck. It was suffocating, and the air leaked from my lungs the longer I was idle. Kindergarten arrived soon enough.

It was the third day of school when I landed in the principal’s office. In an unfortunate miscommunication on game rules, I tried to stab one of my playmates with a stick. He screamed, and I was quickly shoved into the principal’s office to await my punishment. I bounced my leg and bit my fingernails down into tiny stubs of cartilage. When I ended up being brought in and lectured in the principal’s office, my hands tapped on the desk while it was explained to me that I can’t go around hitting other kids when things don’t go my way. Principal Gizzaro’s hands remained still and clasped the whole meeting. I felt bad for her, her stillness. I told her that, but she didn’t understand what I meant. “Just apologize, Madeleine,” she finally said, sighing, which was the biggest expense of energy I’d seen from her yet. 

Two weeks later, I made the journey to the principal’s office again, a trans-school hike, spanning from the vibrant yellow of the kindergarten and first grade wing to the dull gray concrete walls of the administration office. This time, my mom sat in the room with me while the principal explained the multitude of ways I never stop moving. I didn’t particularly pay attention to the conversation. I just nodded my head when the adults’ eyes made their way to me, but neither seemed to notice my lack of attention. During the meeting I decided to try and hold my breath for as long as I could, pretending I was swimming underwater, schools of fish trailing beside me. This only stopped when my vision started to spin from lack of oxygen, and for a brief second, it was like I could feel waves crash above me. I took a breath.

In first grade I discovered that when my mouth moves, I feel like my brain moves too. I would yell about the weather and shark facts and Harry Potter and my mom’s cookies. Recess was no longer a physical battlefield to me, but a verbal one, where I was armed with a barrage of fun facts and stories to use. This development eventually proved to be a problem when my teacher had to continually tell me to stop talking. When I finally got the message, I began to hum instead. When she said to stop that, I tapped my fingers on the desk until I was sent into the hallway. I wanted to tell her that I couldn’t help it. Without movement, I suffocate on my own air, feel waves crash above my head.


Whale sharks are slow creatures. Despite their great travels, they only move up to 3 miles per hour. If you were to put the average speed of a great white shark (5 mph) up against the whale shark, the great white would have more than doubled the distance of the whale shark in an hour. Because they’re slow, whale sharks, when maturing, fall victim to other, faster fish, like the blue shark, known for its haste and ability to stay still and camouflaged for long periods of time. They prove to be some of the greatest dangers young whale sharks face in their life.


I’m told from second andto third grade were quiet years. The phrases “aA pleasure to have in class” and “kKeeps to herself” made frequent appearances on my report cards. My teachers were happier with this development, as were my parents, so instead of my tapping and humming and talking like before, I quietly bounced my leg up and down, not drawing attention, just attempting to float through the rest of my schooling. I discovered that the sound of a pen against paper was similar to the click of a keyboard, and when my hand moved, writing out stories in sprawling handwriting, air came a bit easier to my lungs. With this, my camoflauge seceded and my movement resumed.

 Writing happened to be the only thing that kept me moving, and that came to a skidding halt the first day of fourth grade when my teacher did not find my constant scrawling to be productive. She decided that my stories were deterring me from my schoolwork and confiscated pencils until I needed them for math homework. Stripped from my newest resource and desperate to be moving once again, I began tapping my piano homework onto the glue-stained desk in front of me. Melodies of Mozart and Beethoven playing across social studies classes and quiet time. My teacher, once again, did not find this as amusing as I did, and would glare at me from across the room or yell my name at me until I stopped. For the first time, my grades were not just a row of A’s and 100’s, and there was no clap on the back for the extra effort put in to fix it. There was no movement. I was suffocating once again, sitting like prey to be taken advantage of. Weak and defenseless to the other fast moving animals in my environment as waves crested above.


When threatened, whale sharks have one defense to fall back on, their three thousand one-inch teeth. Typically reserved for eating small shrimp and plankton, the teeth are not useful in violent situations, but there has been evidence of whale sharks attempting to use their teeth when threatened. 


In the fourth grade I bit a girl named Sophie. She was tall and scary and loomed over me. She had nails sharpened like claws and always managed to escape the eyes of teachers when she used them. A master of camouflage. It was on the playground where I attacked her. She pushed me off the swings and, cornered by her against the black iron fence. I couldn’t breathe. Sobbing and shaking, every bit of oxygen seemed to escape the air around me before I could take any of it in. I desperately gasped for breath as she laughed at me, my back stuck against the fence and feet firmly planted on the ground. She reached out her hand toward me. I bit her. 


Whale sharks are remarkably peaceful creatures. They travel in diverse groups of fish, develop relationships and only eat what wanders into their mouths. Despite not traveling in groups with each other, they find community within other species and benefit from one another. It takes a very specific creature to travel with whale sharks though. They have to be willing to put up with traveling five thousand miles in three years, dealing with the whale sharks size and power as it maneuvers through the sea, but most of all, they have to be able to move alongside the gentle giant. 


I still have trouble breathing sometimes. My chest gets tight and my head begins to float as I feel stuck underneath the break of a wave, trapped between thick white bubbles fuzzing up the water. I tap imaginary piano notes onto my thigh when nervous, bounce my leg and run my hands through my hair. When I’m not doing that, I’m talking. To myself, to my friends, to the air, whoever will listen. And when I can’t do either, I begin to asphyxiate. As long as my heart is beating and my brain is running, you can count on me to be in motion. That motion is not always consistent. Some days I move like an Olympic athlete, on others I keep a nice slow pace. The difference in speed depends on my company. In a room full of unfamiliar faces, I ricochet off the walls, hands tapping endlessly as I look to find something to replenish my air. But when my mom holds me as we watch TV, or I go on a walk with some friends, taking in the crisp autumn breeze, I move slower than ever.


Whale sharks can slow themselves down to half a mile an hour and still survive just fine. Oxygen flows into their gills and filters itself at a healthy rate, and they are well. The main occasion they do this however, is around their community. When their companions are with them, swimming right alongside, they slow down, moving at a comfortable pace for everyone. Marine biologists have reported this as a sign of love in whale sharks, moving at a speed which best suits the ones around them, a compromise. The company could move on and survive without the whale shark, and the whale shark can do well without them, but they make the choice to stay together, working at the same speed.


I know I’m in love with someone when I slow down around them, and they slow down for me. I know I love someone when my hands shake and they understand and hold them anyway, and when my brain moves quicker than a bullet, they try to follow it. My love is a live, breathing thing. Composed of the constant ups and downs of a chest, containing the lungs, the heart, ever moving. Love for me is not absence of motion, it’s who I am.


Maddie Thompson is a 17 year old writer currently attending the South Carolina Governor’s School for the Arts and Humanities for creative writing. She enjoys writing comedy pieces, poetry, and personal essays, many of which are about media she enjoys like comic books and rock music. Her favorite things to do are play guitar and watch movies, specifically heist movies.

Visual Art by Carina Wang

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Experiments with Caryl Pagel

Emily Cameron: In your book, Experiments I Should Like Tried at My Own Death, there’s a lot of discussion about spirits and connecting to the spirit/spiritual world. A lot of people consider this a pseudoscience; do you believe it is science or pseudoscience?

Caryl Pagel: I’ll separate my answer into two different things that I think: One is that I don’t believe in cliché ideas of ghosts or apparitions. I don’t not believe in them either, it’s just that I would not testify to any of that. But, I do believe that anything can be approached using scientific method. People still call things like psychology pseudoscience. A lot of these ideas and the people I talk about and researched in the book, like William James, were kind of on the forefront of psychological practice. So, yes, I do believe that it’s science, and I believe you can use science to approach things that aren’t measurable or possible to even know about. In the same way that scientists can study dream activity, and we might not ever have any solutions, we can study the idea of what happens to the soul after death. Those might be impossible things to ever figure out, but I think that they can still be approached using the same techniques of questioning and measuring and gathering evidence. It’s proof one way, proof the other way.

EC:  How did you become interested in the subjects of clairvoyance and clairaudience, like the ones in your book?

CP: I was always interested in that kind of thing, but I became obsessed with it when I encountered a group of texts which were these scientific journals from the late 1800s. They were the proceedings for the Society for Psychical Research, which was this group of scientists who gathered all of these stories about clairvoyance and telepathic activity and apparitions, and all this sort of unknown phenomena. Their goal was not to say, “This exists” or “This doesn’t exist,” but to just gather all the stories from the people that they could and try to figure out if there were patterns, and which testimonies seemed to be familiar to other testimonies. They were trying to collect evidence. And so I read these journals, these scientific texts, and I became really interested in these ideas. I became interested in them as this subject matter that is unknown, and the stories and people’s accounts are what were interesting to me. It’s a great party trick to ask people if they’ve ever seen a ghost, or even asking people about things like coincidence, or if they’ve ever had a near death experience. People have great stories about that. It was the content that drew me in, but it was the form, the act of storytelling around it, that kept me there.

EC: In your book, you have the “Botched Bestiary” poems, which are similar to accrual poems; do you think this form of hybrid literature disrespects or defaces the original work(s) like some people do? Do you think it adds more to the original(s)?

CP: I don’t know if I have a general opinion on that. I know for me, with those particular pieces, they came from a place where I was doing a lot of research on writing about animals and animal artwork. There are a lot of artists who are interested in the animal body and the human body, and the human as a machine or hybrid bodies with medical technology, and people living longer. There’s so much nowadays, that our bodies are changing in response to our environment, and a lot of that comes across in the visual art that I was looking at, at the time. I was thinking of some of these ideas that the artists were using, like collage, and a goat’s head stuck on a collage like Rauschenberg does, or different shapes on imagined animal bodies. Even things such as taxidermy where it’s half one creature, half another creature. This has always been in our imaginations. That’s where I started to write like that. I started thinking of the text as a body, and something that could be manipulated and rearranged and sort of refocused. So I think that there is a certain manipulation, or botching, or re-stitching something together. I also think of it things like heart transplants; these things in which we are taking pieces, not just in the art world, but also in the physical world. There’s hybridity to our contemporary lives in some way. These are the ideas that were swirling in my mind when I started to take parts of texts. That’s why the quotes are still in there, because I wanted it to be obvious. I thought of those quotes as a surgeon leaving a scar of where the surgery was done. In terms of general erasure projects and collage projects, sometimes you can abuse the original text by doing projects like that. Just like you can originally write a really bad poem on your own, you can also ruin other people’s things. There’s a million ways for it to go wrong, but there’s also a million ways for it to go right. A lot of my book was thinking of writing as an experiment.

EC:  Could you break down what the editing process at Rescue Press is like, and describe how it might be different from other presses?

CP:  I don’t know exactly how other presses work, but for us we basically collaborate with each author on the terms of their own piece. So, with the novella, Penny, n., we got the manuscript, and I read through it and made notes, I would call the author and we would have these long conversations about certain scenes or certain sentences, which was fun. We’d talk about these characters as if they were really alive, and we’d wonder, “What would Penny really do in this scene?” or we would ask, “Is that the right word?” It was a lot of conversations and dialogues, and some of the suggestions I made ended up in the final piece and some of them didn’t, depending on what the author felt like was right for the work. To contrast that with our newer novella, which is called Last Word, this piece came to us very polished and the author had spent a long time with it over the course of time. So, I didn’t have as many edits on that and he didn’t have as many edits on his own work either because he had already done all of that work and had a lot of other readers. It just depends on the project and what the author is up for, which means for some of them we go back and forth on all these different drafts and some of them we don’t do that much with. We think of editing as a service we can offer to people, which a lot of middle level presses or even other small presses don’t do anymore. They just publish your book. They don’t read it a bunch of times or help you edit it at all. And a lot of the bigger publishing houses will edit it without consulting the author, and they’ll just say, “You have to make these changes.” We try to offer ourselves to the authors and say, “What can we help you with?” or “What do you want to do with this?” It is very much a collaboration.

Ana Garcia: You must receive many manuscripts from authors who want to be published. What is the voice you want to give to them? What are you particularly looking for when you consider work for publication?

CP: It depends on a bunch of different things. It depends on what genre I’m reading, so in poetry sometimes I –at least, lately- am prone to writings that are more adventurous, wild or strange. In fiction, lately I am in a mood for traditional things. What I’m looking for on a manuscript changes depending on what I am interested in at the time, but also really strong writing, regardless of genre or style, can tell me the intention behind it and keeps me interested while reading it. When Rescue Press started, I was interested in hybrid genres, which I still am, but that was one of the reasons why we started, like one of our books To Be Human Is to Be a Conversation, is a piece that is part memoir and part poetry, there are photographs and questions, so it is a documentary text that is very interesting. I’m interested when people are mixing mediums and playing around.

AG:  What is the most challenging part of editing an author’s piece? Are there any aspects in particular that you get tired of?

CP: That is one of the qualities I look for before I accept something. We publish about 5 books every year, which is kind of a lot for a small press, but also it’s not that many books. When I decide we are going to publish something, one of the things I think about is “Is this a book that I want to read one hundred times?” Because that is the editing process: you read it over and over again, and you collaborate with the author. In the process, sometimes your life changes or sometimes you’re reordering everything, or cutting huge parts or encouraging people to write more into it, so there are many things that can happen. Some manuscripts don’t need much work at all, but I pick things I know I won’t get tired of, which is hard because there’s a lot of good work out there and it’s quality writing, but I know I can’t read it a hundred times. However, this helps me to read out what I want to publish, too.

AG: Does the writing change a lot when it falls into the editors hands?

CP: It depends a lot on the book project, so some of them we’ve done massive amounts of work in collaboration with the author, and some of them we’ve changed one word. A lot of it depends on how much the author is willing to work with us and hear our opinion. So I would say that it is very different for different books.

AG: Rescue Press varies a lot on the aesthetics they choose for their books. What do you take into account in a book to choose how it should look like?

CP: One of the things that we do, but not all small presses do, is that we really try to make a physical object that fits the content, the style of the work and the author’s vision of it. That’s why all of our books look really different, a lot of small presses will use the same size, the same type of pattern for their covers, but we work very closely in collaboration with the author. Sometimes they’ll say: “I just envisioned sort of a big book for mine,” so we’ll try to make them interesting, trying to use the content to suggest other artistic representations for it, while keeping the author’s vision of it at all times.

AG:  After reading so many manuscripts, do you think they have influenced/inspired your own writing?

CP: Definitely yes! I don’t know if I could say how, though. I think just the more you read, the more influence you get. The work that I publish, that I read, influences me a lot. I just read Frankenstein for the first time, and I thought: “Wow, this book is awesome!” So all you read starts layering in your head, and there’s more like available sort of models that you can do.

AG: Now that you went to the publishing companies as a writer and not as an editor, how did this experience make you feel? Do you think that your experience as an editor prepared you for the editing process?

CP: It did. I knew what to expect and the editors for my book were great. Factory Hollow Press is the press that put out my book, and they are the amazing in every single aspect. It was such a gift to work with them, and I felt so honored that they wanted to publish my book. My editor, Emily Petit, spent so much time with my work, and gave me a million bizarre ideas for the cover. She was very patient for editing, and gave me great advice in reordering the poems. So yes, being an editor prepared me, but I was still very lucky with the people I worked with.

AG: What made you decide you wanted to become an editor? What do you enjoy the most about your work?

CP: I enjoy reading all of that work. Basically I just have been a huge reader since I was a little kid and I’ve always been a writer, too. I could not get enough reading while I was growing up. I read every single book in my house, and visited the library very often. That’s still what I do, I mean, part of my job is to read which is what I love to do. Even more than writing.

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