Laurel Erdoiza

laurel erdoiza

October 31, 1963 ~ July 7, 2023

Born in: Los Angeles, CA
Resided in: Fargo, ND

Laurel Leigh Erdoiza was born in October 1963 in Los Angeles, and grew up in Bruneau, Idaho, the daughter of Anjel José Erdoiza, a first-generation Basque immigrant, and Maxine Wilma Henning Erdoiza, a German-American raised in North Dakota. Laurel identified with both the heritage of her parents and her genetic heritage, Scottish-European and African-American, a topic she wrote about in her essay “The Face I See,” published in the lit journal Clover, A Literary Rag in 2018.

Her mother, maternal grandmother, and older sister all had performance backgrounds, and Laurel soon found her way to the stage, making her debut as a Christmas story angel in her first-grade play before going on to win several talent shows playing her accordion and performing acrobatics. As part of an acro-dance trio, she performed at half-time shows and dance recitals in Bruneau, Grand View, and Mountain Home. That led to competitive artistic gymnastics, and Laurel began training at WINGS gym in Boise. With just three years in the sport, she competed the first Tsukahara vault and the first double-back aerial by an Idaho gymnast, winning state championships, including a seven-event sweep while representing Bishop Kelly High School’s state team, and also setting state records and becoming the first gymnast to represent the WINGS club at a US Gymnastics Federation national meet.

She graduated from Bishop Kelly High School in 1981 as a National Merit Scholar, though her greater happiness came from receiving the English class award from her “forever teacher,” Dr. Thomas Mooney, who encouraged her writing endeavors. She attended Honors College at Gonzaga University in Spokane, Washington, graduating cum laude in 1985 with a dual major in English and Journalism, and began working as a copywriter for the Citizen Ambassador Program.

In Spokane, she performed in numerous dance revues and theater shows, including dancing the soloist role of Maggie Anderson in a production of Brigadoon, whose run was extended due to nightly sold-out performances. She fondly remembered Brigadoon as a “magical moment,” including being honored to dance choreography by New York pro Salicia Saree and learning to perform ballet lifts with her dance partner, Colorado native Quinn Arellano. Laurel also choreographed for several dance shows and stage musicals, including working on productions directed by Jack Delehanty at the Kubiac Fine Arts Center at Gonzaga Preparatory School and directing and producing a two-season Broadway-style dance revue called First Cut for Gonzaga University.
After a “great run,” Laurel hung up her dancing shoes and returned to Idaho in 1990 when she accepted a position with Micron Technology, where she worked and traveled extensively as a college recruiter based out of the Boise headquarters, and later the Silicon Valley campus. In her decade at Micron, she expanded the company’s college intern program from twelve to eighty students, and loved being known as the “Intern Mom.” She also received a special commendation for helping to establish Micron’s Technical Career Ladder.

Having been married briefly in her twenties, while living in California she married for the second time in 1997, and though later divorced remained good friends with her ex-husband, Paul. In 2000, she pursued her love of the narrative arts full-time and entered the creative writing program at San Francisco State University, finishing in 2003 with a Master of Fine Arts specializing in fiction and screenplay writing. She worked for the publisher Chronicle Books in San Francisco during and after her graduate studies, and continued to work as a widely sought independent editor and script doctor after relocating to Bellingham, Washington, in 2005, where she also began teaching creative writing locally and hosting the popular Open Mic Night at Village Books, which she emcee’d for more than a decade. After helping to launch the popular Chuckanut Writers Conference, in 2013 Laurel received a Mayor’s Award for the Arts for her contributions to Bellingham’s creative community.

Alongside editing and managing numerous book and magazine projects, Laurel found time to write her own stories, essays, and reviews that were published in local and national publications, including the heralded Sun magazine, where her story “Shoeless,” inspired by her Army dad, garnered honorable mention in the prize anthology Best of the West. Among other writings, including the Pushcart-nominated essay “Nursey” (published in Clover, A Literary Rag in 2015), she published four more stories featuring the characters from “Shoeless” (eventually intending ten in all) and was known for reciting her stories off-book at readings. She also published the blog Dear Writers, the YouTube vlog Home Is a Handstand, and co-founded and published a blog for the San Francisco–based Dogpatch Writers Collective.

In 2017, she headed to North Dakota to pursue a longtime dream of researching the story of her mother’s life during the Great Depression, which she was writing under the working title So Goes the Way. Her essay “Beating the Train” (anthologized by Z Publishing Books in 2018) previewed that longer work in progress (a very early version had been produced for her master’s thesis under the title Magazine Henny Penny). While living in Fargo and Grand Forks, Laurel grew fascinated by the seasonal floods and floodwall architecture and began studying and writing about the episodic nature of the Red River. A trip to Minneapolis sparked an idea for a sci-fi noir series, and despite “freezing her a– off!” in the Midwest, she happily began working on the first book in the series under the working title Naimsake. When she was diagnosed with metastatic cancer, she wrote about that too, in an essay titled “It Shouldn’t Be Long Now” published in Dear Writers Blog. In 2023, Village Books awarded Laurel with the Village Books Literary Citizenship Award for her engagement with the literary community.

Though Laurel’s work life often put her on public platforms, she found equal joy in crocheting, home decorating, watching live theater and “really bad TV shows,” taking road trips, being near the water, and spending time with friends and family. She treasured most being a sister and an auntie, and a dog mama to Chloe, a German Shepherd mix who liked to howl at firetrucks. She and Chloe were familiar faces around Bellingham during their years together there. One of Laurel’s favorite memories was roaming the many trails in and around Bellingham with Chloe, who went to dog heaven in 2017.

Laurel is preceded in death by her parents and her birth mother, and younger sister Terri, and survived by her sisters Aren (Al) and Stephanie; brother Garen (Linda); nephews Lee (Starr) and Anthony; nieces Aria, Angela (Adam), and her “Baby Girl” Felicia (Carl); great-nieces Hope, Bella, Natalia, Sarah, and Kristina Leigha; great-nephews Cole, Anson, Zach, Isaac, and Keandre; and many wonderful cousins including her childhood playmates David (Anna) and Ramon (Diana); and her sisters of the heart, Jen and Erica.

Laurel would love it if you made a donation to the ASPCA or any animal charity.

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Memories Timeline

Guestbook

  1. I knew Laurel firstly as the host of the Village Books open mike in Bellingham. She somehow pulled a creativity that was in a bit of hibernation in me to the surface. Her encouragement promoted me frequently reading there and later joining her in a writer’s group. When I think of Laurel I see her eyes calling on me to push my creativity. What she was really asking for was to be alive and vibrant…since that describes who she was. I’ll miss you Laurel! But then again you are with me every time I write…

  2. Today the world is not as bright as it was yesterday because our beloved Laurel Leigh has joined the authors/gymnasts/dogs/kitties/sister/mother/father that passed before her. I hope she’s sitting at a table in the woods, listening to the sound of ravens and the laughter of friends.

  3. It was an honor to have you by my side in life. You’re one of the best aunties ever!!!! True to your heart and always did it your way. You have left a legacy! We are all going to miss you. Tell aunt terri I love her. I know Chloe and Hollywood are so excited to see you. I love you to the moon XOXO babygirl

  4. Rest in peace. I am glad you are no longer in any pain. You were a true inspiration to me- and one of the most gifted writers I have ever seen. Your presence on this earth will be deeply missed. I will remember you always. 💔🙏🏻🕊️

  5. Laurel,

    I am very shocked that you are no longer with us. I was so happy about your cancer being in remission. I had a draft I was working on last month, and thought, “I should see what Laurel would make of it.” I have many good memories of you, Laurel. You were a great open mic host, editor, and natural teacher. You were a good person to go walking with at 11 pm around Fairhaven talking about nothing in particular.

    Do you remember back around 2013 or so when a man all dressed in white appeared at random times to the Village Books Open Mic—and then a woman started showing up at opposite random times dressed all in black? They both came to listen, but neither of them read, and they never attended the event on the same night. One night after the open mic, we took note and began to speculate who these mysterious people could be. What was their story? Did they know each other? Were they once married? My favorite was it was God, curious about the Bellingham Poetry scene.

    You were so accepting of people’s poetry, regardless of skill or method. You hosted with such grace. Like, one summer evening at VBOM, when a visiting poet calmly walked up to the podium and screamed his poem which, unbeknownst to us, was a performance peace. After screaming the word “OUCH!” 50 times he calmly shared the title of the poem as “A Tree Getting Cut Down with an Ax” The audience’s hair flew back. We didn’t know what hit us. I’d never witnessed a performance so verbally violent utilizing one word. It was impressive. Without skipping a beat you walked up beside him, thanked him, then introduced the next poet.

    Thank you for inviting me to join you and your writing students to see your friend perform at Seattle’s Hugo House. It was a great night. On the way home, the five of us packed in the car, and we took the back road to Sudden Valley. The fog that night was so thick I thought we’d never make it. Didn’t someone decide it was a good time to share ghost stories?

    In 2013 when we both became Bellingham’s Mayor Arts Award recipients I knew I was in good company. It was a dream to be recognized along with a high-caliber writer and community contributor like yourself. I have great respect for you and the love you gave to those that crossed your path.

    I am so sad that you are no longer with us. I only knew you for the last 10 years. It wasn’t enough. I will hold what memories I do have close to my heart.

    • Shannon, A beautiful tribute to Laurel whom I only met a few times. I’m glad you had a lovely friendship with her. Thanks for your words.–Linda

  6. Although I did not know Laurel like a cousin should, I can tell that she was very accomplished. She had a very complete and happy life.

  7. Dear Laurel,
    I hope your spirit is flying free. You will live on forever in your words and in all of our memories. I will never forget how lucky I felt when you had me speak at the first Chuckanut Writer’s Conference and you put me on a panel with Tom Robbins (my hero), and Sharon Flake. And we shared Chronicle Books in common- plus Bellingham environs… and sadly, as of late, we both shared cancer. Fuck you Cancer for taking this beautiful, vital woman. I am trying to keep you at bay… and I am going to carry Laurel’s light with me every step of the way.

  8. Laurel and I only knew each other for a several years, but we were meant to know each other and to become friends, of this I’m certain. I have so many happy memories, but I will probably remember Laurel’s wonderful, infectious laugh, most of all.
    Years ago, we were at our mutual friend’s house for a New Year’s Eve party. Everyone was dancing and singing and generally having fun. I was holding my friend’s beloved little dog that I knew very well, and often took care of for her. Anyway, I was trying to take a selfie with him, to post saying that he was my kiss for New Year’s Day. Right as I hit the button, as if on cue, he swooped in and licked me across all my front teeth; you can imagine the surprised look I had captured on MYSELF! I told my friend the story then showed her the resulting picture. She laughed then took my phone to show everyone else. I excused myself to go to the restroom; while behind the bathrooms closed door, I heard a huge uproarious laughter exploding from the other room. Everyone was so tickled by this story and resulting picture, but especially Laurel, who was simply howling with laughter.
    I’ll never, ever forget you, dear friend. You’ve left your mark on all our lives, there’s no doubt about that. .

  9. I had not seen Laurel (Lala as I knew her as a kid) for a very long time probably 40 + years, but saw her again when she attended my niece’s funeral 6 years ago. Laurel and my sister were good friends and I always remember her not being annoyed when I, as a “little kid” would hang around them. When I saw her again she was just as kind and loving. She genuinely cared for others and had a huge heart.

    This was so fun reading about how adventurous her life was. I am so happy that she got to experience so much. She will be missed.

  10. Laurel was a really sweet and special cousin with a wonderful smile and great spirit. We loved her very much. She will certainly be missed.

  11. Laurel was wonderful. She was the only writing teacher I could fully relate to and she taught me everything I know about writing. But she also cared about us all as people. She gave so much of herself to help us with not just with our writing but our lives. And her love of her family came across to us all. I know that she specially cared about you, Anthony. Maybe now she can be your amazing Guardian Angel Aunt

  12. Laurel was so gifted- and I was in awe of her writing ability! I absolutely loved reading anything written by her, but what stands out even more was her kindness. She was so very sweet and thoughtful. When I donated a kidney to my sister in 2019- she sent me a card and a lovely gift that means the world to me. I will treasure it forever. She will be sorely missed. Heaven has gained a beautiful angel!


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