by Dodie Bellamy

Small Press Traffic Literary Arts Center has gone through a period of intense transition this past year and a half, but we're still here, alive and kicking-and committed to living up to our 22-year reputation for excellent service to the Bay Area literary community. Small Press Traffic continues to be dedicated to developing audiences for contemporary literature and to nurturing emerging writers. Due to an unexpected rent increase, in January, 1995, SPT closed its 24th Street storefront and moved a selection of its stock to an interim location in the Castro, sharing space with Lodestar Books. The majority of our stock was placed in storage. Shortly after our move, SPT's executive director resigned to take another job. SPT's very devoted Board of Directors ran SPT until I was hired in April. I have been involved with Small Press Traffic since the early 80s when I participated in Robert Glück's CAC-sponsored writing workshops, an experience which I found invaluable in developing my craft as a writer. For 13 years I co-coordinated SPT's "Poetry and Prose" reading series.

After much soul-searching, SPT's Board of Directors has determined that, due to the changing funding climate, it is no longer viable to continue to operate as a bookstore. We feel our goal of making small press publications available to the public will better be met by re-inventing ourselves as a literary resource center-as a non-circulating library, open to all, regardless of income. Our important collection will continue to be non-partisan and rich with works by minority writers. The funding for distribution may have shrunk, but the need has grown. In this world of conglomerate publishing, literary magazines and books of poetry, fiction and fiction from small, noncommercial presses are almost invisible. Most bookstores can't afford the financial risk, national distributors turn up their noses, yet hundreds of fine writers are being published in small press editions each year. It's a pity if these books and magazines aren't read because the public doesn't have knowledge of them or access to them.

When Lodestar Books closed unexpectedly this past December, Small Press Traffic placed the remainder of its stock in storage. This month (March) we moved our stock to a temporary space in Centro del Pueblo on Valencia Street, where we are processing and dispersing the books. A portion of the stock will be kept as the beginning of our literary archive.

This month Small Press Traffic also took up permanent residence at New College of California, in their newest building at 741 Valencia Street. At New College, Small Press Traffic will continue to operate as an autonomous entity. New College is providing us with an office, as well as space in an inviting, accessible lounge area in which we'll house our resource center. In addition, Small Press Traffic will have access to New College's facilities for presenting literary events and workshops. Our resource center at New College will operate as a reading room, with set hours, including some weekend hours, in which members of the general public can browse our stock. Our resource center will be an ideal place for low-income individuals to have access to a wide range of contemporary literature which they might not be able to afford to buy-and would most likely not be able to find at the public library. It will also be a center where an emerging writer can find materials on how and where to be published.

In 1995 Small Press Traffic received grant money for some exciting programming. For the second year of "Erasing the Margins," our multi-cultural writing workshops sponsored by the James Irvine Foundation, we hired Justin Chin and Octavio Solis to each teach an 8-week writing workshop, followed by class readings. Chosen for "Pick of the Week" in The Bay Guardian, these workshops were an overwhelming success, loved by the students. They generated a sizable mailing list of writers interested in future workshops. Beginning March 6 Stephen Beachy is teaching "Writing in the Age of HIV" at a Different Light Bookstore in the Castro.

We also launched our "Small Press Partners" reading series, funded primarily by the San Francisco Art Commission. For this series we are hosting such excellent and diverse writers as Myung Mi Kim, Erica Hunt, Kevin Killian, Tan Lin, Loss Pequeño Glazier, Norma Cole, Rodrigo Toscano, Camille Roy, Margy Sloan, Will Alexander, Steven Shaviro, as well as an evening celebrating black beat poet Stephen Jonas. One of the pleasures of our "Small Press Partners" reading series is that it promotes the presses that publish minority and experimental writers.

Here at Small Press Traffic we're working hard to keep San Francisco's vital literary scene alive-quite a challenge in these difficult financial times. We couldn't have lasted this long without community support, and we'd like to thank all of you who've bought our books, attended our events, performed for us, taught for us, or donated money. Stick around, you ain't seen nuthin' yet.

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