Life with the Written Word: Ernest Dempsey’s Story from Pakistan

Just like one’s immediate social surroundings, being part of an online community required mutuality of interest, a certain desirable decorum, and above all, the will to engage in meaningful, very often a reassuring, and dialogue – whether in form of direct person-to-person communication or comments on blog posts. It was living in a world of your choice.
–Ernest Dempsey

One of my most staunch and most fun Blogging Buddy relationships is with Ernest Dempsey who in previous posts I’ve referred to as “Our Man in Pakistan.” For a real treat go to the Riehlife archive to access Ernest Dempsey’s 28 appearances contributing to our village wisdom.

Ernest Dempsey is the pen name of Karim Khan who has written several fine books. He conducts interviews, writes articles, professional book reviews, essays, and poetry.

We first met in 2007 when Ernest reviewed “Sightlines: A Poet’s Diary” on TCM, and subsequently posted an interview for World Audience. Ernest is the Editor-in-Chief and co-founder of “Recovering the Self: A Journal of Hope and Healing.”

Join in our conversation below for tips and inspiration about how to create a network of colleagues and supporters over the internet–no matter where you live. –Janet


JGR Ernest, you’ve built a strong on-line community. How old were you when you began? How did you know how to do that? Have you concentrated on making connections with people in the United States and Australia?

Ernest: Though an avid reader and writer since my school days, it was in imagination at best to connect to people in the writing/publishing world before the year 2001, when I was finishing graduating from the university and used the Internet for the first time. With a low-speed internet, this new medium was so exciting and so very inviting to my passion for books and writing that before long, I found myself typing my writings on a computer.

I was 25 when I first contacted an author of a book that I was reading and liked a lot. It was Peer, Prejudice, and Discrimination, a book by the late Professor Harold Fishbein of the University of Cincinnati. Dr. Fishbein’s response to my correspondence was very positive and encouraged me to connect to people of intellect and learn from them.

It was in late 2005, coincidentally the time when Dr. Fishbein left us for good, that I moved to Peshawar city and started reviewing books regularly, posting my reviews on a my blog Book Corner.

Along with reviews came the passion for interviewing authors. This way, I became online friends with a number of authors who appreciated by reviewing work. In summer of 2006, I published my first book and soon became an editor at the World Audience Publishers of New York. As an editor, you get in touch with many authors, personally and professionally. So my circle of online friends grew. And since then, as they say, there has been no looking back. I am connected to lots of people in the writing and publishing world.

Since my sensibilities were more on the side of the literature and traditions of the west, I almost always addressed English publications, particularly American as my editorial positions have all been at American publications. There are some good friends in Australia, UK, India, and a few other countries. But mostly it’s America where I am connected to people more regularly and with greater harmony of thought and spirit.

JGR: You’re quite young still. You’ve been enormously productive in several genres. How did you use your internet community to support and promote your work?

Ernest: Most of the writers, nearly all of them in fact, that I got in touch with had their websites and many loved to blog about their topics of interest. I found that interactivity lay at the core of online promotion of your work. Being a writer, this interactivity had immense appeal for me since all these writers and editors and publishers were also my readers, as much as I was theirs.

Just like one’s immediate social surroundings, being part of an online community required:

1) mutuality of interest,
2) a certain desirable decorum, and above all,
3) the will to engage in meaningful, very often a reassuring, and dialogue – whether in form of direct person-to-person communication or comments on blog posts.

It was living in a world of your choice.

I at once took to the activity of promoting others’ work and providing feedback, allowing them to tell about their experiences and achievements and aspirations. In return, I found the same respect, involvement, and feedback from others. Through newsletters and citizen journalism sites also, I connected to productive people and found the activity very meaningful. Many like-minded people befriended me. I learned that interaction is the key to promotion, and what better way to promote your work than through socializing with those who are united with you in spirit despite living a world away?

JGR: What are some of the benefits of a strong online presence? Besides building a career, what personal satisfaction and relationships came out of that?

Ernest: Beside being cathartic, it was so very encouraging to get connected to the writing and publishing community. I found some truly wonderful friends out there. Whether it is Leonore Dvorkin in Colorado, Kat Nicotera in Connecticut, Dave Scotese and RD Armstrong in California, Mike Strozier in New York, Victor Volkman in Michigan, Matt Ward in Australia, or Janet Riehl in Missouri, computer-mediated friendship has affirmed my belief in extending the concept of friendship and care beyond the immediate surroundings.

Getting appreciated by the online community of writers (and editors and publishers) has a key role in boosting my confidence in my own penchant for creative expression and it has made life more productive, more meaningful.

One very important thing that my online community of fellow writers showed me is the power of writing as a healing tool. There are many of my contacts who had some kind of trauma, illness, or hard-lived past, but who got over the crisis and emerged as strong, confident persons. This has particularly been so ever since I started the journal Recovering the Self
through which I met so many people with stories of crisis/trauma in their lives and then recovering from it using writing to boost the healing or recovery process. This has all been very inspiring and reassuring for me on a personal level.

Tune in tomorrow for Part 2 of Ernest Dempsey’s story as a passionate Man of Letters–in Pakistan.

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  1. Ernest-
    your final paragraph resonates so clearly. The online community can be crucial to a budding writer who has no physical community that can come from university and publication.

    Thank you for our glimpse into your life. Looking forward to part 2!

  2. Selena,

    Thanks for your comment. Ernest’ story shows how freeing and effective the internet is in such a solitary profession as writing. Yes, where there is no physical community it supports us. And, it extends our reach.


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