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A Seattle woman's date with publishing

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In Seattle, you don't just run. You do triathlons. You don't bike around the city, you ride 154 miles around Mount Rainier in one day. And if you're Amy DeZellar, you don't just date. You create a project to go on 50 dates and document it online, hoping it pays off.

"I wanted to present what it's like for a regular person -- not like a reality show with celebrity casting -- to go through dating," DeZellar said.

The native Midwesterner didn't force things, letting relationships evolve -- or end -- naturally. The only difference between the dating she did and what other singles do is that she put it on a Web site.

While she may not have found a life partner -- not that it was ever her goal -- she did find a publisher. Next summer, "Dating Amy: 50 True Confessions of a Serial Dater" will hit bookshelves. (The 50 Dates are no longer available on the Web site.) This week, DeZellar is auctioning a chance for someone to insert their name into the memoir as a pseudonym for one of the dates or a business where she met one of the dates. The eBay bidding ends Friday night. DeZellar will donate 10 percent of the winning bid to a charity of the namer's choice.

The book is being published under the new 5 Spot imprint from Warner Books, which is aiming for the chick lit/narrative non-fiction market, said DeZellar's editor, Karen Kosztolnyik.

"I checked out the Web site after I read the proposal from her agent," Kosztolnyik said. "I loved the whole concept of this woman who wanted to focus on her love life and go on 50 dates and take you with her."

When she started three years ago, DeZellar, 38, didn't really have a grand plan, besides maybe pitching the idea as a prelude to a dating column in one of Seattle's two mainstream newspapers (not this one). At that time, she had been in Seattle for only a year after moving here from Los Angeles after being laid off from AOL, where she wrote entertainment reviews. (Other former lives: music critic, professional Christmas caroler, Minnesota Vikings locker room messenger, factory worker.) While she freelanced here, she craved a regular paycheck. Or even one big one. So she turned to the Internet.

Originally, she was going to do it for a year with a date a week and two weeks for vacation. But it stretched out to about two years with 22 guys.

On the FAQ of her Web site, one reader questioned the number of dates she chose for the project. DeZellar's answer revealed her screening tactics.

"Q: Why have you only been on (insert XX amount that is apparently not enough) of dates? When I was in my 20s I dated much more than you do ... sometimes four or five men a week.

A: Not sure if snorting lines of coke off the belly of a stranger in the coat check of a disco while Donna Summer moans 'Love To Love You, Baby' in the background constitutes a date? Look, I'm picky. I turn some men down. I'm not in a hurry and I don't ask men out, okay? Sheesh."

She had no problems meeting men. She wrote on her Web site, "Frustrated eligible women often ask where all the men are. I think a better question is: Where aren't they?"

DeZellar still keeps in touch with about a third of "The Dates." She told all of them she was writing about them -- something she probably won't do again.

"One thing I learned is not to write about your love life in public," said DeZellar. "It causes all sorts of problems. It throws in an extra wrench in the works. I was talking to one of the people I dated and we were kind of rehashing things and he was saying, 'You thought this and this,' and I said 'How do you know that?' He mentioned the Web site and said 'You're not exactly mysterious.' "

Being a bit on the old-fashioned side, she didn't hit on the guys. They approached her, and rarely with a pick-up line.

As the dates progressed, she also learned to let go of a tendency to hope a guy would adapt better to her. She learned to cut her losses and move on.

"I loved her whole attitude," Kosztolnyik said. "So many times you see women on TV depicted as sorry sacks, eating ice cream and getting depressed. With her what's so refreshing is that she has a really fantastic attitude about dating. She approaches it as an adventure."

DeZellar realized that despite the nature of her project, she preferred being a one-man woman. "I'm not really great with relationship advance. I'm good at getting dates and I'm told I'm a good date. That's what I stick to," DeZellar said.

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