October 31, 1963 ~ July 7, 2023
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.