Just came back (actually, I’m writing this at night and it’ll post in the morning) from the reading described above (author Marie Brennan can be found on LJ and Twitter as swan_lake) and you know what I came away with?
Voice. Voice, people. That was the big lesson I learned from reading all debut novels for a year. The one thing they all had in common was a strong voice.
The reading itself was fun. I actually talked to people. My wife was so happy when I told her about it later that she cheered and clapped me on the shoulder.