All Friends Are Necessary: Three questions for novelist Tomas Moniz

Earlier this week, Baltimore-based, independent Mason Jar Press released their Novella Series. The series features three chapbooks from Tomas Moniz, Jaime Fountaine, and Nicole Callihan. Culled from hundreds of submissions, the book features three thematically linked pieces intended to work together or on their own—about love, sex, and family.

Mason Jar Press will be celebrating the release of the series Sunday at 6 p.m., at Bird in Hand (11 E. 33rd St., [410] 814-0373). Moniz, a writer based in California, will be reading from his novella, “All Friends are Necessary.” Moniz made a name for himself with his zine, “Rad Dad,” which later evolved into two book anthologies, “Rad Dad: Dispatches from the Frontiers of Fatherhood,” and “Rad Families: A Celebration.” He agreed to answer a few questions for Baltimore based writer China Martens about writing, parenting, and more.

Last time I saw you we talked about what comes next after the empty nest, or struggling to write other things even though one is better known for radical parenting writing. What’s it like to transition into another kind of writing? 

It was certainly difficult personally to transition away from writing what I was comfortable with, what I felt I could do well, what provided gratification. Because when I broke into the genre of fiction it was harder to find places to share it, harder to read it at events so it definitely felt more isolating. A little bit like the empty nesters sting. So ironically, learning how to let go of my children and the intimacy that comes with living closely with them allowed me to learn how to let go of the need to share my writing immediately, to sit with the uncertainty of whether or not what I was doing was good.

Can you tell me about the time and place of San Francisco that “All Friends Are Necessary” is set in.

The novella is set in the mission, a vibrant Latinx neighborhood that like so many other neighborhoods across the country is struggling with gentrification and, in particular for the Bay area, the rapid influx of tech money. Despite all these changes though I think the mission holds onto its distinctive culture especially in the parks where so many different kinds of people play football and drink beer and have picnics. You’ve got a wild mix of families and young people and workers all mixing it up. One of the things I love to do personally is bike around the area and so I made my character bike through the streets a lot in the story.

I wrote the story as a way to keep writing after I finished a longer project [Editors’ note: La Familia, Moniz’s first novel, out in November]. It was during the 2017 summer and I was living in the mission; it was an incredibly hot couple months in San Francisco. Literally and of course figuratively. It was the summer that Nazis were rallying across the country.  It all felt so surreal and so I was trying to find a way to make art that felt meaningful in these fascist times. And of course it was fun just to write about the neighborhood I’ve been a part of the last 10 years: the bars, the BART stations, the beaches, the spin classes.  My kids were raised in the East Bay (Berkeley and Oakland) though I did live in the city with my son for the first 6 years of his life…and I was raised in Hawaii!!

Are all friends really necessary?

Definitely some friendships and relationships certainly should end. Perhaps I should revise the title to say most friends are necessary. But really I was thinking about how we support each other individually and/or collectively. I love those moments when strangers meet and share a beer or a conversation and maybe that’s the end of it. And that’s perfect and meaningful. Just like how intimacy evolved over long-term friendships as well. I was thinking how despite the sometimes bad friendships—our friends are so important! 

China Martens is the author/editor of “The Future Generation,” “Don’t Leave Your Friends Behind,” and “Revolutionary Mothering: Love On The Front Lines.” She is hoping to genre break, post-post-empty nest, with her first novel as well. 

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