Sarah’s Bookshelves Live

Hosted BySarah Dickinson

Sarah’s Bookshelves Live is a weekly show featuring real talk about books and book recommendations from a featured guest. Each week, Sarah of the blog Sarah’s Bookshelves will talk with her guest about:


I’m getting real about all things books and serving you up a bit of snark on the side.

Ep. 63: Helena Dea Bala (author of Craigslist Confessional)

In Episode 63, Helen Dea Bala (author of Craigslist Confessional) shares why she started Craigslist Confessional, how she decided to quit her job to pursue Craigslist Confessional full-time, and shares her own story of immigrating to the U.S. from Albania.

This post contains affiliate links, through which I make a small commission when you make a purchase (at no cost to you!).

Announcement [00:55] Y’all know I had always planned to air the podcast bi-weekly through the summer. As the summer has progressed, I’ve realized how burned out I am (this probably isn’t a surprise to y’all if you’ve been reading between the lines of my recent posts). The last couple months of quarantine with 2 young children, having to manage all their distance learning, and lacking any childcare completely drained me. I pushed through because there was an end point. It’s now becoming apparent that school will not resume as normal in the Fall, which will require me to put structure in place to make sure our lives can run smoothly for the longer-term.   I need some time and space to be able to think clearly (rather than frantically turning my wheels to keep churning out content) and plan for how the podcast will look and how my family’s life will run in the future. So, I’ve decided to take a FULL break from the podcast following today’s episode…most likely until mid-August. 

  • My plan at this point is to return with a new full length episode on August 19 and resume a normal schedule from that point on.
  • In the meantime, I’ll still be sharing what I’m reading on the blog and sometimes on Instagram.
  • AND, my bonus podcast content for patrons (support the podcast on Patreon here) will NOT change during my break. I’ll still be releasing 2 bonus episodes per month…one book recommendations episode and one Superlatives episode.

I consider this podcast a marathon, not a sprint. I’m committed to it and want to ensure I’m able to give it my all over the long term. Thank you all so much for your understanding and know that I appreciate every one of you so much! I’d love to hear your thoughts and feedback in the comments. Highlights

  • How a conversation with a homeless man in front of her D.C. office building gave Helena the idea for Craigslist Confessional.
  • The story of quitting her job as a lobbyist to pursue Craigslist Confessional full-time.
  • How her parents (who were extremely proud of her job as a lobbyist) felt about her quitting to do Craigslist Confessional full time…and how their feelings were shaped by their immigrant experience.
  • How / why she decided to just listen to her Craigslist subjects without offering advice and what that was like.
  • The logistics of getting these personal conversations into book form.
  • How she cared for her own mental health while being enmeshed in these oftentimes horrific stories.
  • What it was like to listen to stories told by the person who was doing the harm (rather than the victim).
  • The two subjects she’s kept in communication with since their initial conversations.

Helena’s Book Recommendations [36:43]

Two OLD Books She Loves

Two NEW Books She Loves

One NEW RELEASE She’s Excited About

Rate It Game [48:47] Other Books Mentioned

Other Links

About Helena

Website | Instagram | Twitter

Helena Dea Bala immigrated to the United States as a child. To make ends meet during those difficult first years, she helped her mother clean houses on the weekends. She graduated Phi Beta Kappa from George Washington University and worked to become a lawyer and lobbyist in Washington, DC. After her day job left her feeling disconnected and unfulfilled, she deferred her student loans, applied for a credit card, and gave herself one year—one year to just listen. Five years in, she now does Craigslist Confessional full time. Find out more at

Next Episode

The podcast will be on hiatus through mid-August.

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