Recent SU master’s degree recipient awarded Fulbright Scholarship to research, write in Finland
Writer Maile Chapman G’01, a Tacoma, Wash., native and recent graduate of Syracuse University’s graduate program in creative writing, has received a 2001 Fulbright Scholarship that will enable her to spend the next year working in Finland on her first novel.
“The Creative Writing Program in SU’s College of Arts and Sciences gave me three protected years to work on my short stories,” Chapman says. “The Fulbright gives me another year in a completely different place. It’s a godsend to be able to spend all of my time writing and researching.”
Many of Chapman’s short stories have been published or are forthcoming in various literary publications, including The Mississippi Review, The Denver Quarterly, Stand Magazine and Post Road. Her short story “A Love Transaction,” which was published in the Fall 2000 issue of Post Road, was nominated for a Pushcart Prize and appears in the “Best New American Voices 2000” anthology (Harcourt, 2000) and in “Beacon’s Best of 2000” (Beacon, 2000).
Chapman will use her time in Finland to study the culture and lifestyle of women of Swedish descent who lived in Finland during the early 20th century. She will focus specifically on women’s health issues and the practice of medicine during that time period. She will also study early 20th-century Finnish institutional architecture and how it influenced American institutional architecture, particularly in the northwestern region of the United States, where many Scandinavian immigrants settled during the late 1800s and early 1900s.
“Much of my writing during the past few years has focused around the themes of illness, modern medical issues and the emotional implications of illness and chronic pain,” Chapman says. “Architecture and the haunting of architecture has also been a recurrent theme in my writing. I don’t have the mind of an architect, but I’m fascinated by architectural ideas.”
While in Finland, Chapman will be affiliated with the Institute for Women’s Studies at ?bo Akademi University, the only Swedish-language university in Finland. She will stay in the Uni Hostel for researchers and academic visitors in the city of ?bo. The material she gathers will be incorporated into her novel, “A Sliding History of O. Unela,” which follows the life of a woman of Swedish descent who was born and educated as an architect in Finland prior to Finnish Independence. The novel follows Unela as she travels from Finland to the United States during the 1920s to design a tuberculosis sanitarium for a wealthy American.
Unlike American sanitariums, Finnish facilities emphasized fresh air and social interaction, Chapman says. Unela completes the project but then eventually becomes too ill to work and retires to the sanitarium she designed. Changing times and intrigue engulf the facility, leading to the murder of a physician and his nurse.
Much like the protagonist in her novel, Chapman, who speaks Swedish, comes from a family that can trace its genealogy to Scandinavia, although Chapman’s family is of Norwegian descent. An ongoing family tree project has identified the immigrant couple from which her family descended, who first settled in the Pacific Northwest. While she is abroad, Chapman hopes to visit Norway to trace her family tree beyond that first immigrant couple.
In addition to the research she will be doing in Finland, Chapman hopes to get a lot of work done on her novel. “I didn’t think it could get any darker than it does in Syracuse during the winter,” Chapman says. “But there are only four hours of sunlight during mid-winter in Finland. All of those long, dark days might enable me to get a lot of writing done.”
In addition to earning a master’s degree at SU, Chapman holds a bachelor’s degree from Evergreen State College.