Will you read my story/novel/treatment/book proposal?

I'd love to be able to help, but I'm too busy with my own writing, and my students' work, both of which take up most of my professional time.

Would you offer me some tips on being admitted to Cornell's MFA program?

All that matters is the work—just write a superb manuscript, and if we like it, you'll get in. It would also be helpful to write a clear, concise personal statement and get a few strong letters from your teachers or peers, but ultimately, it comes down to the work. Invest all your effort there. The rest of the information you need can be found at this link.

And you might join the forums at the AWP. There you can chat with current and prospective students about the local community and other literary opportunities.

Could you help me get an agent?

The way I found a literary agent, back in the 1990's, was by finding out who my favorite writers' agents were, then sending them a query letter by mail. This is readily available information; many writers list the name of their agent on their personal web site, but you can also find out by calling the publisher and asking to speak to the editor of the book in question. The assistant will be able to give you the literary agent's contact information.

I'd make my letter brief: tell them about yourself, and about your book; don't write it like it's flap copy, or a marketing memo, just describe the plot and characters, and what your writing style is like. You might compare yourself to some writers you admire and are hoping to emulate.

Be sure to tell the agent that you are querying them because they represent someone you like. Indeed, put this in the first couple of sentences. Agents get a lot of random crap from people who are blanketing the entire earth with queries; they are more likely to respond if you show that you have done your homework.

Don't send sample pages unless they ask, and definitely don't send the whole ms. If an agent's own web page has instructions that contradict this, then follow them--but I think that the query letter is still the way to go.

Do you have any suggestions for creative writing exercises?

Sure. You're welcome to use some of the ones from my Weird Stories class. A syllabus and list of assignments can be found at this link. I'm also very fond of the Oulipo Compendium as a source for exercises and experiments.

What are your influences? 

My answer to that question is here