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In recent years, the starving writer rarely encounters new opportunities for well-compensated publication. This is especially true in the Bay Area, where rent prices climb and creatives cower, as locally lauded publications like California College of the Arts’ Art Practical and Wolfman Books’ New Life Quarterly quietly fold out of financial necessity. 

So, when the Bay Area-based nonprofit Small Press Traffic announced a new publishing venture called The Back Room on May 17, it was truly cause for celebration. 

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The Back Room will launch in fall 2022 under the direction of Claudia La Rocco, former editorial director of SFMOMA’s Open Space (another Bay Area publishing casualty). 

Small Press Traffic’s publication “High Dawn Collected 2020-21” documents the first year of its pandemic reading series High Dawn, co-presented by UC Berkeley Poetry Colloquium. (Photo courtesy Companion-Platform)

Named for SPT’s origins in the back room of a bookstore in San Francisco’s Castro District, The Back Room will be published biweekly in the spring and fall, “inviting creative and critical responses to regional, national and international issues and communities.”

SPT is one of only five Working Artists and the Greater Economy Certified arts nonprofits in the Bay Area recognized for a commitment to paying artists fair wages, meaning new writers will earn a base rate of at least 25 cents per word. 

“This new initiative will be small and carefully tended, recognizing the reality that there’s no dearth of places to publish online, but a severe shortage of writing outlets that privilege respectful editing and fair compensation,” the Small Press Traffic website says. 

“Like the rest of SPT, The Back Room will be W.A.G.E. Certified, cooperatively minded, and curated with an emphasis on racial and gender equity.”