I used to say yes to such requests on occasion, but that opened up a floodgate of requests I couldn’t manage. Due to time constraints (my full-time job, writing schedule and family/other obligations) and legal reasons, I can’t, as much as I wish for your success. If it makes you feel better, those times in the past when I did review someone’s manuscript and/or introduced someone to a rep and/or met up to chat about publishing was not at all like me handing over a key — in fact, quite the opposite was true, as there was a LOT more work to do.
One of the main reasons I maintain this website is to answer questions about writing and publishing for those who’d like to know (you’ll find exactly what I’d say to you in person or on the phone right here on this site — in my posts and articles/interviews). If you have a specific question that isn’t addressed on my website, feel free to email me via the info on the Contact & Events page. You can also leave a comment at the bottom of any of my blog posts, and I’ll get back to you as soon as I can.
For manuscript feedback, I suggest either getting a critique partner or forming a critique group. There are also many freelance editors who will review your work for a fee (if you’re writing kidlit, joining the SCBWI will lead you in the right direction). As for meeting agents, writing conferences are a great way to network with professionals in the publishing industry. The SCBWI holds national conferences twice a year (in NYC during the winter, and in L.A. during the summer). You’ll also learn the proper way to query agents, which is what 99% of authors have had to do — effectively pitching your own work is a great skill to have in your toolbox, and it’s a skill that’ll come into play over and over during your writing career.
Also, check out this post here for a comprehensive overview of writing and publishing (it’s full of advice and resources!).
The road to getting traditionally published is a tough one, often filled with rejection letters and years of hard work, so you’re not alone (I can’t speak to self-publishing because I haven’t tried it…at least not yet). The best advice I can give is to build a community of creatives and to keep going even when you feel like giving up. Especially when you feel like giving up. On days when it seems like everything you’re doing is worthless, pick up one of your favorite books to get re-inspired. I like to go for a walk and get away from my project(s) for a while to get some perspective. Persistence (and some talent/ability) is truly the key. Wishing you much success!