A Few Minutes With Alicia Cook
When the idea of interviewing an Instagram poet was being thrown around, Alicia Cook quickly came to mind. She is incredibly talented and the messages she shares through her poetry about mental health have touched us all, in one way or another I'm sure. She also was super generous, giving a lot of great pointers for the writers of Instagram! So, enjoy!
Kendra: What made you decide to start writing on IG?
Alicia: It happened by accident in 2012. Hurricane Sandy destroyed the shore town I grew up in, in New Jersey and I wrote a Tumblr essay on how it affected me. I didn’t even have Facebook (still don’t). But I shared the Tumblr essay with my friends and they shared it and people kept sharing it and it went viral. People found me on Instagram, which wasn’t a poetry account yet and asked if I had written anything else because they were interested in reading more of my work. Around that time a handful of poets were posting their work, so I followed suit.
K: Who were your favourite writers at the time?
A: My favorite writers are always my favorite writers. I am heavily inspired by Jodi Piccoult, Alice Sebold, Poe, Plath, Tom Petty, Sara Bareilles, Leonard Cohen, Eminem, Kacey Musgraves, Maren Morris, Ed Sheeran, Amy Winehouse, Bright Eyes, Mac Miller. Some are musicians, some are poets or authors, but all of them are outstanding writers.
K: What’s the worst thing about using IG as a platform?
A: Currently, the algorithm. It used to be in chronological order, you saw things as they were posted as long as you followed that person. Now, we only see a very small percentage of the posts by people we follow. It is definitely becoming a “pay to play” model. Meaning, eventually your posts will likely only become far reaching if you pay to promote it. It’s unfortunate, and I will not be paying for that.
K: What’s the best?
A: The connections I’ve been able to form with people who have connected to my work and other writers who have become part of my support system.
K: Favourite piece you’ve written?
A: That’s a tough question. I’ve written a few things lately that I haven’t published (yet) that I am really proud of. To answer in a broader sense, my writing that honestly approaches mental health and the writing surrounding grief and addiction are my favorites because I know, or at least I hope, that those pieces are helping people.
K: Do you think your writing has changed since you started? How?
A: Hell yeah it has. I am constantly growing. If I ever stop growing in my craft, I might as well quit. My writing has matured – the style has become uniquely my own. I am 33, I have seen some shit (laughs) and I am able to translate that into my writing, which has seemed to really resonate with people, especially the last year.
K: In what ways has writing changed you as a person?
A: Writing has saved my life. If I didn’t have this outlet, I have no idea where I would be. Ever since I was a kid, writing was my way of working things out – of understanding my mind. Writing isn’t just what I do – it’s an actual part of me, like a limb.
K: For the readers who are unaware, you lost your cousin to a drug overdose and have been an amazing advocate for other families dealing with addiction.
Has this platform (Instagram) been helpful to you for creating awareness on the issue?
A: The platform has helped greatly, along with the news outlets like Yahoo News, CNN, USA Today, HuffPost (ect.) that have helped spread my message far and wide. My goal is to help the families affected by addiction – and thanks to a bunch of little miracles, timing, and luck, I have been able to do just that, and will continue to be a voice in that arena for as long as I am needed.
K: Any advice for writers who are just beginning their journey on IG?
A: Exist outside of this app. It is not what it once was. The algorithm is going to make it exceptionally hard for you to “make it” just through Instagram. Submit to lit journals, attend poetry readings, and open mics. Get on Podcasts. Post everywhere else – Tumblr, YouTube, Twitter, Patreon -- not just Instagram. And don’t get hung up on numbers – cultivate and care for the people who follow you. Create your own website. Strive to be more than just “Insta Famous.” Oh, and don’t steal or plagiarize, that’s just a terrible look.
Thank you so much Alicia for taking the time to answer all my questions! This was awesome! I hope that everyone enjoyed this interview and make sure to follow Alicia, if you don't already! You can find her on YouTube and Twitter as well as Instagram. She also has a website which you can check out here!