Tomas Moniz On Not Forgetting How Powerful We Are

An interview with Tomas Moniz, from The Write Stuff series over at SF Weekly:

Tomas Moniz is the founder, editor, and writer for the award winning zine, book and magazine: Rad Dad. His novella Bellies and Buffalos is a tender, chaotic road trip about friendship, family and Flamin’ Hot Cheetos. He is co-founder and co-host of the rambunctious monthly reading series, Saturday Night Special. He’s been making zines since the late nineties, and his most current zine addition / subtraction is available, but you have to write him a postcard: PO Box 3555, Berkeley CA 94703. He promises to write back.

When people ask what do you do, you tell them…?

I usually say, I try to do less and be more. I think we all tend to do too much, stress too much, obsess too much. But I know it’s a common question that I often ask others myself so I respond by sharing my excitement that I have a humbling, satisfying, exhausting job at a community college teaching basics skills writing classes. I get to talk about writing, encourage people to trust their own voices, share their stories, think critically about who they are and what they believe. Which, of course, reminds me to do the same…

What’s your biggest struggle — work or otherwise?

Trusting that what I write is worth the work. Knowing that I should enjoy and appreciate the process of creating and doing rather than the product and its reception or success, but too often I find myself distracted by rejection or desiring approval. In fact, it’s that struggle that silences me, that makes me avoid writing. In some ways, this is applicable to so many aspects of life: Take relationships. I remind myself daily to enjoy people for who they are, cherish messy, complex relationships, revel in the moments rather than focusing on what they will bring you later, what they might mean. Capitalism has really messed us all up.

If someone said I want to do what you do, what advice would you have for them? 

Let’s collaborate. Seriously! Write me: PO BOX 3555 Berkeley CA 94703. We learn by doing. Especially when we do things together.

Do you consider yourself successful? Why? 

I feel successful when I trust my heart or my gut. I have started numerous projects, events, groups because it felt necessary; I yearned for it. I trusted that if I asked for help, people would, in fact, help. Or at least offer encouragement. So to see things like RAD DAD grow from a zine I hand stapled on my kitchen table putting my kids to work to a collaborative project involving so many people humbles me. That’s been a profound success. But even the little one time zines I continue to do where there will be only 50 copies that I mail out to writers I admire embodies a certain exquisite sense of accomplishment.

When you’re sad/grumpy/pissed off, what YouTube video makes you feel better?

Would you ever perform a striptease? Describe some of your moves. Feel free to set the mood.

All I know is that Papa Roach’s Last Resort would be the pulsating musical accompaniment and there would be a lot of thumb mic karaoke action. Nudity may or may not actually happen. Maybe this is more of a Karaoke dream….

What’s wrong with society today?

I think it was the Avengers who said it, the Coup recently used it, and it’s a mural in downtown Oakland — We Are the Ones We’ve Been Waiting For. I think too often people, including myself, look to others to do something, change something, publish something. I’ve been honored to meet so many people in various communities who when they want something to happen, they make it happen by building relationships, making difficult choices, but sticking to them. I think the only thing wrong is that we forget how powerful we are, like Bree Newsome who took down the flag.

How many times do you fall in love each day?

Often. More like being overwhelmed by the feeling of love: the tenderness, the beauty, the tragedy of how fleeting it can be. It’s distracting really. Sometimes it’s a postcard or some banal platitude I’ll read somewhere or the way I’ll watch a young father hold his child. Oh man, the beauty, the beauty.

What would you like to see happen in your lifetime?

We celebrate teen parents, we dismantle the police force, male politicians decide on a moratorium: no men in politics for ten years, we invest lots of money in community centers, people establish an anarchist writing retreat that offers a free place to stay and write for some kind of trade (I’m in the process of building that one right now with my girlfriend so check back in). That’s a good start.

What is art? Is it necessary? Why?

Because it’s what we all do. One of my favorite poems by Reyes Cardenas explains it better than me:

Lowriders #2

cruising the barrio
have their value

aloe vera for burns
for everything else

eating cactus
for breakfast

to kissing you
when you
smell like cilantro

everything has its value
its music

When you have sex, what are some of the things you like to do?

Laugh. If you’re not laughing, you’re not having a good time. After that, consent is so sexy. ask, discuss, do, reconsider, do again.

What are you working on right now?

A dystopian novella set in Oakland 50 years or so in the future as a new upgrade to everyone’s “Synch,” an implanted communication device, will produce an infection wiping out most of the population (starting in all the tech centers and places of power — so, yes, Silicon Valley is ground zero!). But it’s really a story about a group of teenagers as they prepare for prom and graduation but then need to come together to survive the end of the word. Kinda dramatic, no?

A book about radical families and parenting and building a better world one child and family at a time.

Finally, I have a short story collection looking for a home as well as a poetry collection (a number of which I’ve read at events locally here!) so if anyone out there can help, then yes, please help me!

What kind of work would you like to do? Or: what kind of writing do you most admire?

Honest and vulnerable. I really try to read consistently writers who are local or writers I can contact. I love sending fan mail.

If there were one thing about the Bay Area that you would change, what would it be?

That we take all the same energy we use to party in the streets when sports teams win, when art events happen, when street festivals come around, and show up just as hard and just as collectively when our communities are attacked, when institutional and bureaucratic violence as it does so routinely affects any member of our wide and diverse population; it is I believe incumbent upon those not affected to step up and hold people accountable. And even more so if you are part of the new wave of residents that in some direct and indirect ways contribute to the violence. Communities change and that’s okay, but community by definition means looking out for each other. RIP Alex Nieto, Oscar Grant. Gwen Araujo and sadly so many others.

What are some of your favorite smells?

Bodies. A baby’s neck after they breast feed. Skin moist from a shower. The nervous sweat of people performing or the excitement of bodies on dance floors. The crusty smell of activist meetings. The fecund odor of desire. Hugging you….

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