I can't help you with the first bit, but for persistence on a usb stick there is a tutorial here:viewtopic.php?f=189&t=105155#p593918
(it is about lmde, but the principle is the same for any distro)
Of course you cannot work on a usb stick from that same usb stick you have to have some other media containing gparted in order to carry this out.
Also unetbootin will create persistence on a usb stick (with some distros, mint included).
Fujitsu Lifebook AH532. Intel i5 processor, 6Gb ram, Intel HD3000 graphics, Intel Audio/wifi. Realtek RTL8111/8168B Ethernet.Lubuntu 13.10,Ubuntu12.10 (Unity), Mint16 (Cinnamon), Manjaro (Xfce).