Those who have been to Cross River know that you can’t get there by traditional means of transportation like plane, train, or automobile. To visit that historic town in Maryland, you’ll have to peer between the pages of the short story collections of Mason alumnus Rion Amilcar Scott, author of the prizewinning Insurrections and the recently released The World Doesn’t Require You—the latter of which has already received much praise from such outlets as the New York Times, Southern Living, and Kirkus Reviews.
Scott, who received his MFA from Mason in 2008, says he can trace the fictional town’s inception to his time as a student in the Creative Writing Program.
“I definitely didn’t come in with that idea.... Mason somehow brought that out in me.”
He says the community of writers he found, and the out-of-classroom conversations he had with close friends from the program, helped solidify a concept he had long been thinking about. “You’re in this community, and you’re ensconced, and you feel safe and you feel uplifted.... It was a very good experience.”
From some angles, Scott’s arc of success since his graduation from Mason may seem like a straightforward line. But he stresses that before winning the PEN/Robert W. Bingham Prize for his debut collection and widespread praise for his second book, the moments of self-doubt were many.
“There were a lot of ups and downs; there were some moments where I didn’t feel any passion for writing. And it felt like it was going nowhere, getting me nowhere. I was sacrificing a lot of time and effort. But I knew that I would be excited again, so I kept going until I got to that point where I was excited.”
Scott currently teaches creative writing at the University of Maryland.
A version of this article, written by Priyanka Champaneri, BA ’05, MFA ’10, originally appeared online in The George on September 11, 2019.