Getting It Write
Judah Freed was diagnosed with cancer in January, but that hasn’t stopped him from helping local authors fulfill their dreams
Something’s different about Judah Freed these days. He’s the same person he was when he started his journalism career decades ago, excited about his work and passionate about life, but lately he’s operating in a much smaller frame.
“See the slim face and the pants held on by a belt?” he asks with an easy smile.
Freed, founder of the Kauai Independent Authors and Publishers Association (KIAPA), was diagnosed with metastatic stage four kidney cancer in January.
“I’d been in such great health all my life,” he says.
He’s already had one kidney removed along with a tumor “the size of a cantaloupe” and endured nine grueling treatments of interleukin immunotherapy. “It was described as having a bad flu, but I don’t think they should say that anymore. I’d describe it as getting hit by a Mack truck or a train,” he says.
He’s still not out of the woods. He either must undergo a second operation that would give him a 50 percent survival rate, or go the non-surgical route and destroy the remaining tumor with a new immunotherapy drug called Opdivo.
Yet, despite these unimaginable health challenges, he hasn’t given up on his mission to provide a free networking forum to help fellow writers improve the quality and professionalism of their books. Unless he’s in the hospital, Freed is un-stoppable, holding meetings on the third Tuesday of each month at his home in Kapahi, where he offers free training and advice on topics such as copywriting, marketing and promotion, and printing.
“The idea is for people to start using their books as their vehicle to sail toward their dream,” he explains, adding that KIAPA means two-hulled canoe in Hawaiian.
The Colorado native inspires writers to publish independently while achieving a “polished” look for their books.
“You are really doing everything you can to put out a quality product — a book that looks as good as anything you’re going to find out of London, Boston or New York,” he says. “What I imagine someday is Kauai being a home for really great writers and publishing. There’s no reason we can’t do it. We just need the willingness to go pro and the willingness to learn how to do it.”
“I want to really allow people to express whatever voice they’re trying to get expressed but do it with as much professionalism as possible, so that their book could actually go into a bookstore next to these books from any of these other publishing capitols,” he says.
Freed started loving words when his father would read to him every night as a child. The Jungle Book, Treasure Island and the Sherlock Holmes series are just some of the books he admired most. The aspiring novelist and poet, who has a bachelor’s degree in journalism and communication, as well as a master’s in public communication, was offered his first reporting position at a paper in Colorado. “But I resisted because I was going to be the great American novelist, the dream of every young kid,” he jokes.
Nonetheless, he took the plunge and became a “feisty journalist.” His career gave him many opportunities throughout the years, including being one of the first in the 1970s to report on the trend of sexual harassment in the workplace, and serving as editor for the Colorado Daily in Denver.
His love for words continues today. Shortly after moving to the island in 2011 to be with the love of his life, wife Melissa Mojo, he worked as special sections editor for The Garden Island. He continues penning stories as a freelance writer and recently completed a book, Making Global Sense. Freed also owns Hoku House, where he provides independent authors with publishing services including layout and editing — all this while his health inevitably continues taking a toll on his mind and body.
“I admire Judah’s tenacity and his willingness to go deeper than the surface,” says Mojo. “He doesn’t just look at the disease from a physical perspective — he knows it is connected on emotional, mental and spiritual levels, too. Judah’s working on all these levels simultaneously to heal, and this takes a lot of courage and persistence.”
Doctors gave Freed a poor prognosis, but he’s undeterred.
“I’m not my diagnosis,” he says. “I’m here. I want to be as much of a beam of light as I can be. I’m learning as I go along, and when issues come up, I deal with them.”
For now, he’ll continue helping aspiring writers as much as he can. “I really get a lot of joy nurturing talent,” he says.