What I Learned From Getting Published

My grandmother said to me years ago when I expressed my desire to be a writer that you need to live some life, and have some experiences to be able to write about it! Despite what society may say it’s never too late to go after your dreams, or create new ones.

I recently announced on Instagram my “big news”– I’m being published! I realize that not everyone who reads my blog follows me on Instagram (though you should! 🙂 My IG is like a mini-blog) I am excited to share more about these opportunities soon but in the meantime I wanted to write a post here to share my experience and a few things I have learned along my way.

Continue reading “What I Learned From Getting Published”

The Liebster Award 2018

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Hello Dear Readers,

Recently I was honored to be nominated for the 2018 Liebster Award! Writing has always been such a huge passion of mine. It is part of the fabric of my being yet, I have struggled to share it over the years. I recently banished my shyness and fear of judgment in favor of following my dreams and fulfilling what I know is my purpose in this life which is to write. I hope you all have been enjoying reading this blog as much as I have enjoyed writing it!

Connecting with other bloggers and reading their blogs has been such a cool experience for me. I want to give my sincere thanks to Amy at Dear Heart for the nomination and encourage all my readers to follow her blog! It is beautifully laid out and covers a variety of topics from travel to faith to great finds to family, motherhood and more! I love reading her writing because it is so relatable and feels just like talking to a friend!

Ten Facts About Me~

  • I live in the same small town in Massachusetts that both my husband and I grew up in. As a kid I thought it was boring but, as I grew older I began to appreciate the rural life and history of my hometown which was founded in 1683!
  • I am a poet and story teller at heart. I have books, journals, and pages full of poems of all styles and lengths. I also have many book ideas and hope to write a novel one day!
  • I became a mother right out of high school at the age of 18. I survived an abusive relationship but was later blessed with my husband who has raised my oldest daughter as his own since she was 2 years old. She is 11 now and our family is happy, thriving and growing. My second daughter Claire will turn 2 right before the birth of her baby sister or brother this June!
  • I am eclectic when it comes to my musical taste. I like everything from classic rock to top 20 pop, to country to rap. You will find a little bit of everything on my playlist!
  • I worked for years as a medical assistant in a variety of clinical office settings including acupuncture and most recently managed a chiropractic office. Those environments sparked a strong interest in natural remedies and alternative medicine. I even went to college for a short time to pursue nursing. I am now home full time with my kids and love it! My previous experiences as a single working mom allows me to appreciate every moment home with my kiddos and though I sometimes miss my old career I wouldn’t change where I am now for the world!
  • I love to read and am a die hard library card holder. There is something special about an old library book and a dog-eared page that I just can’t get from my kindle! Have you read any good books lately? If so leave your suggestions in the comments so I can check them out! I am always looking for a good book to curl up with!
  • I have an Etsy shop where I sell hand made nursery, home, and wedding decor. I used to give them away or as gifts until someone suggested Etsy to me. I find creating things to be very therapeutic and nothing makes me happier than seeing others get excited about something that was so much fun for me to make! My favorite is macrame and other fiber arts but I am hoping to learn to sew as well.
  • I love nature and have always felt such a strong connection to it. Nothing makes me happier than a woodsy walk, a day at the beach, or sitting by a lake watching a gorgeous sunset. Even more ironic is that I named my oldest daughter Autumn then a few years later started dating my husband who’s last name (and now mine) is Winters!
  • I grew up Catholic but, fell away from my faith as a teen. After I started dating my now husband and my life began to stabilize I felt God calling me back to him. I searched spiritually for a while but found my way back to the Church a couple of years before I got married. I consider myself a “re-vert” and a Christian. I love drawing closer to Jesus by learning about my faith through fresh eyes. Like my hometown I see the beauty in my spiritual home of the Church now more than ever!
  • I am a master song-maker! I love to make up silly tunes about ordinary tasks for my kids. I always sing in a goofy way but don’t sound that bad when I am in the car alone and no one can here me. If I wasn’t so shy I would perfect it and make it a hobby.
In my element, sunbathing by the lake!

Q & A~

  1. What was the last movie you saw in the theater, how was it? An anime movie from 1986 called “Castle in the Sky”. My oldest daughter loves to read manga and watch anime and a local theater plays selections from the renowned Studio Ghibli about once a month. The showing was in Japanese with subtitles and it was cool to see it on the big screen!
  2. What is your favorite book? This is too tough a question to answer! I love so many so, instead I’ll list some genres, mostly books about spirituality, romance novels, history and classic literature.
  3. What book are you currently reading? I’m actually between books at the moment! Any suggestions?
  4. Are you a dog or cat person? Why? Both! The first pet our family had was a white cat named Lucky. Neither me or my husband were particularly “cat people” but, she was like no other cat we had ever known, a cat with a dog’s personality! Sadly she was scared out of our yard by our former neighbor’s loud lawn equipment and we haven’t been able to find her. That was about a year ago and we don’t have the heart to get another cat. Currently we have a dog and we love her!
  5. What do you believe is your greatest accomplishment? Definitely my family. I always wanted to be a wife and mother so I feel like I am living that dream.
  6. Where is your favorite place to travel? Down to Arizona where my best friend lives. It is such an opposite landscape, dialect, and lifestyle to here in New England. Although it is in the same country it might as well be another planet as everything there is so different! Last trip we got to go to the desert and crack rocks to search for geodes! It was the desert equivalent of shelling at the beach and I thought it was so fun.
  7. What is the best gift you have ever received? Definitely my engagement ring!
  8. Who are those public voices that currently influence you? (Pastors, motivating speakers, celebrities, etc.) I am so inspired by the speaker and author Autumn Miles! I found her on YouTube after the birth of my youngest when I was looking for something inspiring to listen to during a walk. I searched Proverbs 31 and she popped up. My oldest girl’s name is Autumn as well so it drew me in and I have been soaking in her words ever since! I listen to her Texas based radio show through Podbean when I drive or do housework and I highly recommend it.
  9. In your life, what would you describe as your most courageous act you yourself have done? Leaving toxic people in my past, facing my problems and working to change them.
  10. What is your favorite guilty pleasure? Chocolate, wine, and reading in a hot bath (if I can do it all at once it’s even better LOL).
  11. If you could travel to any place in the entire world, where would you go and why? There are too many places I would love to go and have yet to travel to but the top of my list currently is Ireland. I love the thought of all the history and magic in the land there and would love to drink at a pub and see the beautiful green hills.

My Nominations~

Mel at Loving Simplicity– Step by step DIY, crafts, recipes, and simple living!

Erin at Mrs. Mother Dirt-A nature loving Mama sharing stories of family life, fun unplugged ideas, and interesting opinionated essays.

The writers at The Millennial Fiat -Heartfelt posts about faith that inspire and go straight to the heart!

Nikki at Our Jolly Little Home-A blogger with variety! Recipes, opinions, stories from the heart.

Heather at Midsummer Daydreamer -A fellow anxiety warrior sharing personal stories and practical advice

11 Questions I would like you to answer~

  1. What is a piece of advice you’ve received that you want share with others?
  2. Who is the most inspiring person in your life and why?
  3. How do you de-stress?
  4. How would you describe your personal clothing style?
  5. What is on your bedside table right now?
  6. What is your favorite on-the-go snack?
  7. Do you consider yourself more of an introvert or an extrovert? Explain.
  8. Describe a fun date you’ve been on!
  9. If you could have dinner with anyone alive or dead who would you dine with and why?
  10. Tell us about an item on your bucket list!
  11. What do you like most about blogging?

Rules of the Liebster Award 2018~

1) Thank the person who nominated you, and put a link to their blog on your blog. Try to include a little promotion for the person who nominated you.

2) Display the award on your blog.

3) Write a small post about what makes you passionate about blog posting.

4) Provide 10 random facts about yourself.

5) Nominate 5 – 11 blogs that you feel would enjoy blogging about this award.

6) List these rules in your post.

7) Inform the people/blogs that you nominated.

For more detailed information on the Liebster Award 2018 visit here.

To accept the nomination answer my questions, tag me and notify me of your post by commenting below! I can’t wait to read your answers! Remember to nominate other bloggers so we can all continue discovering new blogs, building relationships, and supporting one another!

❤ Cait

A Blackout and a Shadowban

The Blackout

Waves crash against a seawall near the Scituate Lighthouse, Friday, March 2, 2018, in Scituate, Mass. A major nor'easter pounded the East Coast on Friday, packing heavy rain and strong winds as residents from the mid-Atlantic to Maine braced for coastal flooding.

Photo via AP/Steven Senne-bostonmagazine.com

Growing up in Massachusetts, inclement weather is just a part of life. The winters are freezing, the summers are humid, and in between we have hurricanes. This past weekend we experienced a beast of a Nor’easter that produced damaging winds and flooding, knocked out power to thousands of homes, uprooted trees and trampolines, and sent branches flying into anything in their path.

Lucky for us we did not experience any damage to our home, just lost electricity for a few days. Nothing brings you back to basics like lack of light and water. Taking something so average as flicking a switch or flushing the toilet for granted is natural to those of us in developed countries. To me this blackout served a greater purpose and put some of my seemingly huge problems into perspective. The lesson hit home to me all the more because of the fact that for lent I have been giving up what I call my “luxurious baths” to acknowledge how lucky I am to have access to water at the turn of a knob. For many others around the globe obtaining clean water is a daily struggle, and often one of life and death.

Now onto my seemingly huge problem. If you are not interested in Instagram you might want to stop reading here! There is a lot of information forthcoming!

The Shadowban

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Anyone who is a blogger knows the value of social media. It is a great way to get your blog or brand out there and take advantage of free advertising, find readers and other writers in your niche, and give people a better idea of the person behind your posts. Everyone has a favorite and Instagram is mine! I used it often to engage in the poetry community there and am comfortable using it as a result. When I switched my focus to blogging it felt like a natural place to start.

I was just beginning to build good relationships and garner humble numbers that I was happy with when I saw a drastic drop in engagement. I noticed that my posts, which would typically get about 50-80 likes were getting more like 10-15. Where before the hearts would pop up immediately after I posted, it was taking much longer to receive that first like. The likes I did get were only coming from the people who were following me already and even they were sparse. Something wasn’t right.

I am no social media expert or major influencer and hadn’t truly tried to build any sort of following before so I researched reasons why this might be happening and came upon the term “Shadowban”. Well, my account had all of the telltale symptoms and it seems that my page has succumbed to the open secret that is the dreaded Instagram Shadowban. Never heard of it? Here’s everything I have found out about it during my extensive research.

What is it?

A shadowban is Instagram’s way to crack down on people going against their community guidelines by spamming, using 3rd party apps to like and follow/unfollow other accounts, abusing hashtags, and buying followers. This can also happen if you post offensive content or get reported by other users. Your posts don’t show up under the used hashtags to people who do not already follow you which seriously limits your reach and growth potential. Even the people who already follow you will be less likely to see your posts as they are pushed further down their news-feeds. You receive no official notice from Instagram or explanation as to why this has occurred. They have not acknowledged a shadowban directly, instead claiming a glitch in hashtags and some believe it is a myth and doesn’t even exist!

How to avoid it

Don’t use the maximum number of hashtags allowed (30). Make sure the hashtags you are using aren’t “broken”. If they are then the page will only show top posts, not most recent show an error message, or say that there are no posts to show. Don’t use the same hashtags over and over again, try to switch them up. Don’t copy/pate hashtags into your post. Avoid putting hashtags in the comments.

Did you know Instagram has limits for certain actions? If you exceed them the app may think that you are a bot. It is suggested not to like more than 150 photos an hour and not to follow or unfollow more than 60 accounts in an hour (some recommend these as daily limits). Don’t use 3rd party applications for growth or buy followers, if you are guilty of this stop and revoke access now! Leave meaningful comments, not just one word or emojis. Just engage in a genuine way and you should be okay (though I do and wasn’t that lucky).

Shadowban check website

there is a website that claims to be able to tell you if your account or certain photos have been shadowbanned or not but the general consensus is that it isn’t reliable. It did not work for me and told me I was not banned even though I clearly am. I won’t leave the link as I don’t trust the site.

How to really check

Use one of your other accounts or ask some friends who do not follow the account in question to check if your recent photo is showing up under the hashtags you used. If they are not you might be shadowbanned.

Image result for anti instagram

How to fix it

My issues seemed to only resolve with time (the largely reported 14 day time frame) so I am not 100% sure if any of these things actually worked but I think they are worth a try! Some claim that there is no way to fix it and you just have to wait it out. Users have reported the ban lasting anywhere from 24 hours to 3 weeks or more. The most common time frame I have read is around 2 weeks or 14 days. Some give up and start new accounts.

If you use any questionable 3rd party applications, log into Instagram on a desktop computer, and revoke access (you can find the step by step process here.) Another suggestion is to delete broken or banned hashtags or just remove all hashtags from your recent posts. Next, report the problem to Instagram (step by step process here.), when you report don’t say you are shadowbanned, rather that your hashtags are not working and assure them you are a real person. Switching from a business account to a personal one may also help as many users reported the ban starting not long after enabling business tools.

After that it is suggested that you take some time off of Instagram. That means no posting for 2-4 days. Some people go so far as to suspend their accounts and/or delete the app from their phones altogether and reinstall with an updated version when they are ready to test it. This apparently gives time for the algorithm to ‘reset’. Once your hiatus is over interact and post like a normal user. Avoid any spam like activities and follow the rules.

This just may be the new normal

Some believe that this is just the direction Instagram is going. That they have left a lot of money on the table in the past and are trying to take it back by making people pay for sponsored posts to reach their target audiences, much like Facebook. Facebook owns Instagram so it makes sense that they might go in this direction and become a more lucrative and monetized platform.

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Why I think it happened to me

When I started to take my blogging and freelance aspirations more seriously, just a few months ago now, I looked into how to improve my Instagram account. I invested in a camera for better photos, researched relevant hashtags, and prepped my posts to be engaging and of high quality. As you can tell I put a lot of thought and work into my posts, often writing them out in my phone’s notepad including hashtags. I used as many tags as are allowed (including an original hashtag I created and used every time) and copied and pasted them into my posts. I noticed others on the platform placing their hashtags into the comment section of their posts instead of the body under the photo and innocently thought, “Gee, that looks nice!” and I tried it for myself.

I think that is what triggered the ban. I suppose Instagram thought it looked “spammy”. It is frustrating to me because I am truly trying to grow a following organically. I have never considered using growth applications or buying followers. I never had a business account and am not trying to push a product, just wanted to let people know if there was something new on my blog! I would rather have 100 people that actually are interested in my content and writing than 1,000 fake accounts following me. Sadly I never had that many to begin with. I only ever had a little over 650 followers at most and since I can’t be found by anyone not following me in the hashtags I am sure that little number will dwindle until the issue is resolved. I know there are other accounts that have liked and follow/unfollowed me clearly using bots and they have thousands and thousands of followers so it is pretty annoying to feel targeted when my account is more modest .

Some Perspective

It can feel devastating when all of the hard work you put into your Instagram is threatened. Many make money off of their profiles and it is an essential part of their businesses and livelihoods. The truth is that you don’t own your Instagram and there is no telling if it will one day be as passé as Vine. The algorithms change often and they can delete or suspend your account at any moment. Use it as the tool it should be and not the end all be all of your craft or brand. There is more to life than social media!

Do you have any experience with the shadowban? Did I miss any vital information or solutions that you can think of? Comment below and let me know!

❤ Cait