Get to Know an Agent in Attendance: Hannah VanVels of Belcastro Agency

Screen Shot 2019-12-09 at 9.29.48 AMHannah VanVels is a literary agent with Belcastro Agency. Her life is consumed by all things books, and when she’s not working on books, she can usually be found curled up with a good book and a good cup of coffee.

She earned her BA at the University of Michigan and holds MA degrees from Tel Aviv University and the University of Chicago. Hannah has worked various bookish jobs including a stint as a bookseller at Barnes & Noble, a freelance editor for scholarly and academic essays and journals, and most recently as the acquiring editor at a young adult imprint with HarperCollins Publishing.

She is seeking:

“First and foremost, I’m building an inclusive list with a variety of voices and genres. I love working with #OwnVoices authors, and I’m looking for voices from diverse and underrepresented backgrounds, regardless of genre, even if it’s ‘tropey,’ ‘overdone,’ or ‘outdated.’ I want to see it all!”

Middle Grade:

  • Magical realism and contemporary fantasy: Give me a story with a magical school where the MC is a POC. Something with humor and heart and, duh, magic! Stories inspired by myths, folklore, or legends, particularly those that are non-western in origin
  • Humor: A novel that will make adults and kids alike laugh while they read (think Shrek-type humor but a little more immature)
  • Adventure: I would love to find a MG version of The Mummy (the Brendan Frasier version, of course). Characters that are on the spectrum, but their story is not centered on that; it’s just who they are. Because characters on the spectrum can fight dragons and save the world too!
  • Animals. I’m a giant animal lover and a total sucker for beautiful emotional stories that involve animals like Pax and The One and Only Ivan
  • Nonfiction. Narrative nonfiction focused on historical events or figures that history has overlooked STEAM-focused topics for students and young readers

Young Adult Fiction:

  • Fantasy. My first love is character-driven fantasy (urban, contemporary, high — all of it!). ❤ A new retelling of an old trope? A mythical setting inspired by a non-European culture? A reluctant hero who inevitably shouts, “I never asked for any of this!”? Sign me up! I’m looking for strong world-building, strange magic, empathetic villains, morally gray heroes, and subversive fantasy tropes
  • Contemporary horror/thrillers. Creeptastic thrillers with a tightly-knit, well-paced plot, clever and nuanced characters, and a twist that readers will never see coming. I generally steer clear of excessive on-page violence. Dystopian and paranormal are some of my subgenres. Ghosts, vampires, and contagions are very much welcome in my inbox. A heist narrative like a YA Ocean’s Eleven
  • Contemporary. High concept contemporary fiction aimed at all genders. Bonus points if it makes me laugh and/or cry. Evergreen themes: self love, coming of age, girls supporting girls, friendship and friendship breakups, and slow burn romances. Topical contemporary fiction addressing real issues that teens face.
  • Science Fiction. Accessible science fiction. Think Star Wars or superhero movies. I’m looking for a strong grounded story in which you do not need to understand the ins and outs of time travel and quantum physics in order to follow along
  • Young YA. Fiction aimed at younger YA audiences to fill the space where MG ends and traditional YA begins. Great writing is a must. Great character development and an unforgettable voice really drive it home.

New Adult & Adult Fiction:

  • Horror. Dark and devious stories like Leigh Bardugo’s Ninth House. Paranormal aspects welcome! Stories that are gothic and witchy!
  • Fantasy. The key for adult fantasy, for me, is accessibility and intrigue. More Patrick Rothfuss than J.R.R. Tolkien. I’m looking for a well-developed world and magic system with very real stakes. Bonus points if your MC isn’t the typical “Chosen One.”
  • Commercial, literary, and genre women’s fiction. I’m particularly interested in the adventures of twenty-something women navigating the start of professional life after college. Think a younger version of “Sex and the City.” I’m on the lookout for cozy mysteries with a strong female MC and humorous writing style. Romantic comedies! A story that will make me laugh and swoon at the same time.

Nonfiction and Memoir:

  • Powerful personal stories and memoirs, especially from those with marginalized backgrounds. A platform can come in all sorts of shapes and sizes from social media, past publications, or expertise in your subject. Essay collections on a unified and relevant theme

Graphic Novels

  • Young readers through young adult, fiction, and nonfiction. Characters that leap off the page, relatable stories, and stunning illustrations always welcome

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