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A story to Tell: The Tell founder Laura Egland finds inspiration to share struggles

Laura Egland, of Fargo, founded storytelling showcase The Tell in 2012. The event has encouraged her to “be brave” and share her struggle with depression and anxiety. Britta Trygstad / Special to The Forum

FARGO - For show-and-tell in third grade, Laura Egland skipped vacation souvenirs and stuffed animals.

Instead, she told stories.

It’s how she survived moving to four different states and 16 schools by the time she graduated high school.

“I love to connect people, and storytelling does that,” says the 40-year-old Fargo woman. “I recognized that from an early age and just didn’t realize it.”

In 2012, Laura founded The Tell, a storytelling showcase in Fargo at Studio 222 based on the popular NPR radio show “The Moth.” The event, which starts its third season in October, features real-life stories told by local people, and the best ones are “raw and unpolished,” Laura says.

But The Tell is more than a seasonal, monthly event to her. Like the stories she told as a kid, The Tell helps Laura survive.

‘Mama Laura’

Outgoing, boisterous and prone to using profanity, Laura is the kind of person who knows the servers at her favorite restaurant by name and unapologetically talks when her mouth is full. But she also gets teary-eyed when she sees strangers helping each other.

“She loves people, she loves attention, she loves sharing information,” says Laura’s ex-husband and close friend of 17 years, Lee Egland. “Even though she is very outgoing and oftentimes the center of attention in a room she’s in, she’s still very sincere about listening to people.”

Laura’s friend, Valley News Live meteorologist Lisa Green, says she feels like she’s known Laura her whole life, although they’ve only been friends for five years.

“I think that says a lot about her,” Green says.

Known as “Mama Laura” for her nurturing qualities, Green adds that Laura attracts people with her personality.

“I think she saves people. She reaches out to them and can tell when somebody maybe needs a little boost,” Green says. “She’s just one of those people who people are drawn to because they see that she cares.”

Despite her fun-loving, comedic exterior, Laura realized she needed to save herself earlier this year. She recently shared with friends on Facebook that she’s been struggling with depression and anxiety.

Between her divorce, her son moving out and selling her home, Laura experienced a lot of change, intensifying the secret she’d hid for years.

“I basically came out of the closet as being depressed and anxious. I spent this entire spring thinking about suicide. But nobody talks about that, and that’s ridiculous,” she says. “The thing that got me through was showing that to other people.”

Like the stories she admires at The Tell, her revelation was raw and messy. Laura wasn’t sure why she was addressing it so publicly to her thousand-plus Facebook friends, but she knew it had to be said.

“I have long shown you my goofy, nerdy, un-made-up self here on Facebook, and often in public, with the idea that you’d give yourself permission to be yourself – to act out those parts of you you’ve maybe been hiding,” she wrote. “Turns out, it’s not all puppy dog kisses and unicorns farting glitter. We all have our dark stuff and I’m done hiding mine.”

Sharing our struggles

Laura’s been seeing two counselors and taking medication, and she’s hoping that by sharing her story, she can help eliminate the stigma that still accompanies mental illness.

“I have a very deep and abiding belief that at the core, we are all the same. I know that we all have love, we all have hatred, we all have pain. We’re all going through something at some time,” Laura says. “Maybe not everybody can relate to each other but when you do find someone to relate to, I think that’s why we’re here.”

Watching people step up to the microphone at The Tell week after week inspired Laura to share her struggle.

“Talking about it makes it OK for other people to do it. I think we all think we’re so alone,” she says. “I think that when you get onstage, especially in front of a 124 of your closest strangers, there’s a connectivity that really lends itself to community. And I think it’s strong, and I think it’s an asset. Show me your humanity, and I’ll be able to relate to you.”

Looking back, Laura says she didn’t realize how crucial The Tell would be in her life. Her passion for telling and sharing stories saved her – and she says things are looking up.

“I didn’t understand community until The Tell,” she says. “I didn’t get that it was important to feel a part of something so I accidentally created the best thing in my life, the thing that’s brought me through everything else.”

If you go

What: “The Summer Tell,” a stand-alone, juried storytelling event. The theme is “road trip.”

When: Doors open at 7 p.m., and storytelling starts at 7:30 p.m. Saturday

Where: Studio 222, 222 Broadway, Fargo

Tickets: Tickets are $10 at the door for general public and $5 for seniors and students with an ID.

Mosaic Events & Catering will provide a cash bar.

Info: Storytellers sign up at the beginning of each Tell, and their names go in a hat. Eight “tellers” are chosen to share their stories that night.

Heckling is not tolerated.

Tellers may not rant, recite poetry or present a monologue.

Profanity, in moderation, is allowed, and some material is not fit for audiences who are easily offended.

For more information: Visit, or

Anna G. Larson

Anna G. Larson is a features reporter with The Forum who writes a weekly column featuring stylish people in Fargo-Moorhead. Larson graduated from North Dakota State University with a degree in journalism and joined The Forum in July 2012. She's a Fargo native who enjoys travel, food, baking, fashion, animals, coffee and all things Midwestern. Follow her on Instagram and Twitter: @msannagrace 

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