John Clayton:


On this site:


Montana's Enduring Frontier

Cowboy Girl






Red Lodge

Small Town Bound

Other Books

About John

John Clayton speaks at conferences, libraries, bookstores, and other venues. To have John speak at your event, you can email him directly (info [at] or use a speakers' bureau (see links below).


Here's what folks have said about John's talks:

"Caroline Lockhart is a well-known figure at the American Heritage Center (AHC), University of Wyoming.  Her papers, which are held at the AHC, are popular with students and the public alike.  But I had never known Lockhart to 'come alive' as she did during John Clayton's presentation about her passions and her foibles. I left Mr. Clayton's presentation feeling that I had met the person behind the papers in her collection."

Leslie Waggener, American Heritage Center

"Author John Clayton's lecture and slide show about his new book, Cowboy Girl, is a great history lesson, wonderful entertainment, and a fascinating biography of rancher, journalist, Western author, and 'cowboy girl,' Caroline Lockhart.  The Carbon County History Museum hosted one of John's first lectures about Lockhart to a standing-room-only, very enthusiastic audience of community members and history buffs.  Filled with humor, interesting stories, wonderful photographs, and fine scholarship, Clayton's lectures are a welcome addition to our knowledge of the history of Carbon County, of Montana, and of the West."

Penny Redli, Carbon County Historical Society


"Clayton is a mesmerizing speaker.  John and Cowboy Girl were a big hit.  He spoke in an outdoor park, preceded by a parade of cowgirls, and his tales of Caroline Lockhart wowed the crowd."

Lucy Ennis, Friends of the Madison Valley Public Library

"The Red Lodge Friends of the Library asked John Clayton to be our guest speaker at our annual dinner this year. We were not disappointed! John's speech was not only as interesting and engrossing as his book The Cowboy Girl: the Life of Caroline Lockhart, but he also tailored his speech just for us by describing the paths of his research for the book and the many libraries he visited."

Jean Owen, Red Lodge Friends of the Library


John's talks include:

  • The Ghost Metropolis of Mossmain. Offered through the Speakers Bureau of HumanitiesMontana. This presentation tells the story of Mossmain, a metropolis conceived by Billings (Mont.) financier Preston B. Moss (1863-1947) and designed by world-famous landscape planner Walter Burley Griffin. As "the first garden city in America," Mossmain would have integrated agriculture and urban life to create a Chicago-style metropolis east of Laurel. Mossmain busted before it could boom. But its story has interesting implications for how we view Montana's 1920s homesteading bust, as well as the changing relationships Montanans have had with the economy, nature, and community.

  • Happily Ever Aftering on a Montana Cattle Ranch. Offered through the Speakers Bureau of HumanitiesMontana. When Caroline Lockhart moved to her homestead in Dryhead, Montana, in 1926, she was trying to enact in real life the sort of "happily ever after" experience she had described in her Western fiction. Though little-known today, Lockhart (1871-1962) in the 1910s wrote six novels, three of which were made into movies, and all of which culminated in the hero retiring to a cattle ranch. Lockhart based her novels on her real-life experiences -- and vice-versa. So can a single, liberated woman with a tendency to romanticize succeed at running a 1920s ranch?

  • Neonatives in Montana. A "neonative," as conceived by the late historian Hal Rothman, is a person who moves to his or her "hometown" as an adult. The neonative's relationship to that community is almost as strong and complex as -- though quite different from -- that of the native. Often neonatives come to a place for its qualities, but inadvertently change it into the place they left behind. Is that good or bad? How have neonatives affected your community, or Montana as a whole?

  • The Cowboy Girl. An introduction to the book The Cowboy Girl: The Life of Caroline Lockhart, including how John got interested in the story; a summary of Lockhart's career, importance, and character; and dramatic readings from the book. Illustrated speech, 20-60 minutes, for general audiences.

  • The Library Boy. A behind-the-scenes look at how John researched The Cowboy Girl in libraries around the country. The speech then builds on those experiences to discuss the importance of libraries to not just this book, but the lives of individuals and communities. Dramatic reading, 45 minutes, for library fundraising events.

  • The Biographer's Complication. Benefits and perils of writing in the genre of biography. How do you craft a person's life? How do you find the material? And how do you market the book? Lecture/discussion, 15-45 minutes, for literary festivals and writing workshops.

  • Finding and Structuring Narrative Nonfiction. How do you write a nonfiction story that reads like a novel? Your most crucial choices come long before you start writing. In this workshop, with time for experimentation and discussion, John helps writers find a meaningful story, and structure it in ways that pay off for readers. Lecture/discussion with exercises, 45-90 minutes, for writing workshops.

  • First, Kill the Editor. A discussion, with guided exercises, of how writers can improve their productivity, creativity, and accuracy by separating the brain's functions. (Don't worry, editors, you get fully resurrected by the end of the session.) Lecture/discussion with exercises, 45-90 minutes, for writing workshops.

  • The Lady Writer and the Lady Doc. An examination of the feud between Caroline Lockhart and Dr. Frances Lane, immortalized in Lockhart's novel The Lady Doc. Their mutual hatred polarized the town of Cody, Wyoming, and for over 100 years people have been wondering what drove them apart. John draws out the feud's implications for today's most controversial political issues. Illustrated speech, 20-60 minutes, for diversity audiences.

To have John speak at your event, email info [at]


--- Revised: 8/8/2012

Copyright 2008-2015 John Clayton info [at]