Novelist Judy Blume has closely guarded the film rights to her iconic children’s and young adult books for decades. Forever was turned into a TV movie back in the 1970s; there was a Fudge TV series in the 1990s, based on Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing and its sequels, and Blume’s son Lawrence Blume mad an ABC Weekend Special of Otherwise Known as Sheila the Great and a feature from Tiger Eyes in 2012, but that’s it. For a writer with as many bestsellers as Blume, that’s basically unheard of. For instance, there are six feature films based on novels by I Am the Cheese author Robert Cormier. Now Blume has finally decided to let her books be made into movies, and, as Deadline reports, she’s found a home for the crown jewel of her backlist, Are You There, God? It’s Me, Margaret. Kelly Fremon Craig, who wrote and directed The Edge of Seventeen, and producer James L. Brooks will be adapting Blume’s seminal young adult novel, which has been beloved by young women and a perennial target of book banning campaigns since its publication in 1970.
Brooks will be producing under his Gracie Films banner along with Julie Ansell, Amy Brooks, and Richard Sakai; Fremon Craig and Blume herself are producing as well. The film hasn’t been placed for distribution yet—Brooks wants to wait until there’s a screenplay—but studio interest is already high.
Are You There, God? It’s Me, Margaret is the coming-of-age story of sixth-grader Margaret Simon. Blume’s frank treatment of subjects like bras and menstruation made the book a touchstone for generations of American women, even as scandalized parents launched campaigns to remove it from school libraries. Kelly Fremon Craig’s enthusiasm for the source material makes it easy to see why Blume chose her:
It is this rite of passage for women and girls. It’s rare for me to run into a woman or girl who hasn’t read it and every time I’ve mentioned it to a woman, they clutch their heart and let out this joyful gasp. There’s something so timely and full of truth and I remember for me that at that age, it felt like a life raft at a time when you’re lost and searching and unsure. This book comes along and tells you you’re not alone. Women remember where they were when they read it. I can’t think of another book you can say that about.
In a case of serendipitous timing, Fremon Craig had been inspired to reread Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret over the summer after a conversation about it with Amy Brooks, who is James L. Brooks’ daughter. (Amy Brooks’ daughter had just read the book herself.) So when Blume tweeted in August that she was finally taking meetings, Fremon Craig was ready:
One long email to Judy Blume later, she and James L. Brooks flew to Key West to meet with the author. As it happened, Blume was already familiar with Fremon Craig’s film The Edge of Seventeen, because it had shown at the movie theater and bookstore she and her husband run. Brooks described the meeting to Deadline:
We went to Key West, and talked with Judy. It was like a working conversation and we lost ourselves in the work. We got up to go, with this uncertainty of everything happening so fast after we’d just shared each other’s thoughts, and her husband George said, ‘So we’re doing this!’ And then we were all hugging.
Fremon Craig met with Blume and the producers in Los Angeles on Tuesday and is now hard at work on the screenplay. So far, it sounds like things are going swimmingly, as she told Deadline:
I got the greatest email from Judy where she said if someone were to make a film of one of her books, she hoped it would have the same tone and feeling that The Edge of Seventeen had. It’s maybe the greatest compliment I’ve ever gotten, because she has always been a North Star for me as a writer.
There’s a long way to go before Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret lands on movie screens—casting the lead will be sink or swim—but as film projects go, this one’s infancy and childhood have both been a breeze. If its adolescence turns out to be complicated, there are a few people on the payroll who might have some insights to offer.