Blume and her son, Lawrence, were both resolute that "Tiger Eyes" would be the first adaptation when Amber Entertainment came to them with financing from British retailer Tesco. It may not be the most well known of Blume's novels, but to her it's the most cinematic — and one of the most personal to both her and her son. Lawrence experienced a similar fish-out-of-water feeling as Davey when Blume moved him and his older sister to Los Alamos with her second husband, a physicist. The film also captures much of the grief Blume felt at age 21, when her father died just weeks before her wedding to her first husband, John Blume.
"It was such a terrible time and such an awful way to start out: feeling guilty, leaving my mother," she said of her father's death. "But if I had not had to get married then I think what would have happened to me. My mother was needy."
Blume loved her time filming in New Mexico; even revisiting the epicenter of her brief, unhappy second marriage couldn't quell her enthusiasm for the moviemaking. "It made me think, 'If only I were younger, I would do this again,'" she said.
The one bad day, she said, , came when her son was letting the film's lead actors, Willa Holland and Tatanka Means, improvise a quiet scene. It wasn't going well, and Blume was frustrated.
She said she got angry, and "I marched down the hall. I told Larry, 'Just have them say it the way I wrote it,'" she recalled with a laugh. "And they do. Otherwise we were really, really nice to each other."
After the CineFamily screening, Blume mused about whether it's her own attachment to her books that has prevented her work from hitting the big screen. "I'm not like that about letting go, am I?" she asked her son in front of the audience. "No," Lawrence quickly responded, then followed it up with a laugh.
Blume continued, "A book is a book. A movie is a movie. They are made to be different."
To her son, Blume was never an author who sought out Hollywood.
"She did not aggressively market herself as someone who wanted her books turned into movies as soon as possible," he said later by phone. "But also, the producers and studio executives who would come and be interested in doing something didn't come with a specific idea — exactly which book, or how they wanted to treat it. There were a series of near misses over the years. I always thought it was peculiar myself."
A puzzling talent
Blume started writing when she was 25, married with two young children, and wishing for a less scripted life.
"What I longed for was that time of life when everything is ahead of you," she said. "When you are on the brink and it's new and exciting and anything is possible."
The early books, like "Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret," just poured out of her — "It was easier when I didn't know what I was doing," she said — while the latter ones became much more challenging to complete. She spent three years writing 20 drafts of 1998's "Summer Sisters," for instance, and vowed to never write again after it was finished.
Despite her success, Blume struggles to explain why her stories have affected such a wide swath of readers. "I don't know what I do," she said. "I don't know how I did it, and I don't understand it."
Many others have articulated for Blume what makes her literature stand out. In a New Yorker essay on the author in 2012, Anna Holmes wrote, "What Blume is celebrating is that brief yet exhilarating time in a young girl's life in which internal narratives take precedence over external attributes."
Blume grew up in the 1950s in Elizabeth, N.J., with an older brother during a time when parents hid the world's scary truths from their children. Her mother was a homemaker. Her father a dentist. And the degree she was earning at NYU in education was, in her mother's words, a fallback, in case, "God forbid, you ever had to work." Her real job at the university was to find a husband, which she did her junior year. The writing came after she had her two children, daughter Randy and Lawrence.
"I wanted to write honestly about kids because I didn't feel that the adults in my life were ever open and honest with me," she said. "The war had just ended, and we wanted to know what happened. Every story I made up in my head about what really happened was worse than what anybody could have told me."
Today, Blume contemplates the final chapter in her career. Happily married for 33 years to George Cooper, a retired law professor and an executive producer on "Tiger Eyes," Blume splits her time between New York City and Key West, Fla. She joked that Cooper ruined her career: "I got happy, and to write you need a lot of angst."
A recent breast cancer survivor, Blume said that when she dies she wants a headstone that reads, "Are You There God? It's Me, Judy."
But she's not willing to go yet. She's contemplating relocating to Santa Monica for a few months this summer to continue working on her novel. She doesn't have a deadline for the book but hopes to finish the story — set in her hometown in the 1950s — "in her lifetime."
"My mother used to knit, and when she finished a sweater she always had the wool for the next sweater because she made bargains with God. God would not take her when she was in the middle of a sweater," she said. "I used to make a lot of bargains. I don't make a lot of bargains anymore."