Laurel Nakanishi was raised in Kapālama, on the island of Oʻahu, Hawaiʻi. She is the author of the award-winning poetry book, Ashore and the chapbook, Mānoa|Makai. She has been fortunate to receive grants from the Fulbright Foundation, the Japan-US Friendship Commission/ National Endowment for the Arts, the US embassy in Nicaragua, and the Greta Wrolstad Foundation.
Laurel has presented her writing at the International Poetry Festival in Granada, Nicaragua, the International House of Japan, Montana Festival of the Book, Reading Queer Miami, and the University of British Columbia. She received her MFA in poetry from the University of Montana and her MFA in creative non-fiction from Florida International University.
Laurel has taught poetry writing to children in Hawaiʻi, Nicaragua, Montana, and Miami. In 2012, she founded a community arts organization in Nicaragua, NicaArts, which she continues to direct. Focusing on the intersections between teaching, writing, and community organizing, Laurel collaborates with non-profits and schools in her home state of Hawaiʻi to bring creative writing opportunities to underserved children and young adults.