Anyone familiar with the Georgetown area knows about one of the funkiest bakery/coffee shops around. Located just off M Street, past the scenic C&O Canal, Baked and Wired serves dozens of sweet treats and finely crafted coffee beverages to students, business folk and tourists alike. However, this Georgetown gem is now offering more than just cupcakes and caffeine.
Every Wednesday evening, Baked and Wired, where I work, hosts a short story reading club that is open to absolutely anyone. Starting at 6:30 p.m., the cozy back area of the store fills with members of the community eager to discuss that week’s selected short story.
After brief introductions over a tray of free cupcake samples, dissection of the weekly story begins. Participants share their initial thoughts and reactions to the story, and the conversation takes off from there. The club analyzes characters in the stories, examines possible motives of the authors and applies themes from the stories to modern-day scenarios.
The idea for the Short Story Club originated from a former barista at Baked and Wired who wanted to create a space where literature lovers could meet and share ideas on specific readings. He created a Tumblr page that provides updated access to the online versions of that week’s selected book. The site’s archives date all the way back to February of this year, when the club began, and include works by beloved authors such as George Orwell and Gabriel Garcia Márquez. Instead of featuring lengthy books that are difficult to finish, the club decided to select short stories, which take less time to read but are just as enjoyable.
Sam Blank (COL ’12) is one of the weekly regulars.
“I really enjoy that we just read short stories because that allows us to really engage in the text in depth each week in a way I don’t think we could if we were to read full-length books,” Blank said.
Often, the weekly stories are chosen by the club’s regular attendees. Heather Thompson, a recent graduate of Carnegie Mellon University and weekly participant in the club, selected a story earlier this month by Dave Eggers titled “We Like You So Much and Want to Know You Better.”
This short piece of fiction was featured in The New York Times and alludes to the idea that humans are enslaved by social media. This selection fostered a discussion about technology in society that extended beyond the scope of the story.
Usually by the time Baked and Wired closes at 8 p.m., the club is in the midst of an intense dialogue concerning a social or political issue, which is an obvious digression from the short story analysis itself. Blank credited the club for being “an outlet for intellectual discussion,” since he is no longer a part of a constant academic setting.
Thompson also noted the impressive progression of the conversations that take place.
“We always start with the story, but by the end of the hour and a half, we end up talking about the world,” Thompson said. “The conversation is so invigorating and the people so interesting that a few of us even continue the conversation over food and drinks afterward.”
The club attracts a variety of Washington, D.C. residents who are in search of a stimulating environment, and they all find that Baked and Wired is the ideal spot for such a meeting. While there are regulars who make the club meetings a priority in their weekly schedule, new faces constantly trickle in.
“There are always people in the group who expand my thinking and surprise with insights that I never would dream of,” Thompson said. “There is also a range of ages, so getting the perspective of people with more life experience and different views on the world is wonderful.”
Gem Lewis, the general manager of the shop on Wednesday nights, loves the sense of community that the club provides.
“The book club and the customers it brings contribute to the intellectual and creative atmosphere of Baked and Wired,” she said. “It makes the store feel inviting because it gives room for us to be more than just a place to line up for the best coffee and cupcakes.”