Grace, Goals, and Green Monsters: Catching up with Mirka Hokkanen

In this guest anniversary post, I’m reflecting back on three bits of advice from last year’s interview: to give yourself grace, write your goals down, and don’t let comparison drag you down. The last year of the pandemic has felt hard to bear, as there doesn’t seem to be an end in sight, and I have had to keep the above advice on the top of my mind daily.  

My husband has been working in covid units before and after our PCS, which means we haven’t seen much of him. Taking care of our three kids and running the house has been largely my job, which has made it harder to have time and energy for my own work and career building. Despite the times, I do feel lucky to have reached a few milestones that I had written down the previous years. 


The pandemic/world events have left me feeling fairly deflated as far as ideas and mental focus go this past year. I still have a hard time concentrating and feel anxious, even though after our PCS the kids started back in public school and daycare, and I have free hours during the day. I have had to take breaks from reading the news, and spend time alone at night, to recharge from the weight of each day. I haven’t been as prolific as I had hoped for, but I give myself grace and celebrate the work that has been done. I often feel a lot better after an hour of loose drawing at the end of the day. I also picked up knitting, so on the nights when I’m mentally 100% spent, I just sit and knit while watching a light movie. I’ve also taken some time over the holiday break to do nothing productive work-wise, which is really hard for me, but I figured spending time with family is more important than work, even if I could balance both at the same time.  


I haven’t reached all my goals, but as I’ve been able to knock several big goals off my list this year, in January it will be time for me to sit down, dream, and write down a revised plan with new goals. 

In the last interview, I mentioned how helpful it is to write down goals. It sounded like a “foo-foo” thing to do a few years ago, but after doing it reluctantly the first time, and seeing the focus and results a year later, I’m an enthusiastic believer in writing goals down and pinning them to your wall. Here’s a few things that I was able to achieve last year:

I sold not two (as I mentioned in the previous interview) but FOUR children’s books to two publishers. I have been working on those all year, and have a few new books that I’m working on too. Book publishing is a slow process, and the books I’m working on now will come out; three in 2023, and one in 2024. And hopefully, we’ll be able to sell a book or two in 2022, to keep me busy and working for the next several years. Kitty and Cat: Opposites Attract (+ sequel), will come out with Candlewick, and Mossy and Tweed: Crazy for Coconuts (+sequel) is being published with Holiday House, so keep an eye out for those in the future! 

The puzzle I illustrated was also released and sold out of its first print run, and I was invited to paint a second puzzle for the same company. The second puzzle is coming out later this year. I was also able to illustrate stickers for two other companies, and made a cute wall calendar for 2022, that’s available in my Etsy store

Another big goal I reached was creating my first Skillshare class. The class is a basic/intermediate level class that introduces you to the joy of watercolors through simple exercises and the main project: painting rainbow plants. If you scoffed at my previous sentence (joy in watercolors?) then this class was specifically created for you. To take painting back to its basic steps, get familiar with your supplies, and enjoy painting again. If you are not already on Skillshare, my class link will give you 30 free days to try it out. You can watch my class and any other ones on the site. I’ve been painting for over 30 years, and love sharing my passion for painting with students. 

Green Monsters

When scrolling on social media, or reading about others’ successes, it’s easy to start comparing yourself and feel bad for how little you have accomplished. That’s when your goals come in really handy! When I start feeling bad about myself, or start feeling envious, I remind myself of the goals that I have set and about the ones that I’ve already reached. It immediately helps put things into perspective and gives me motivation to work on my own journey, instead of focusing on others. For example, I might see someone who had a really successful trade show, or who just added the 1000th wholesale account, and feel bad that I’m not doing great things like that. But when I think back on my goals, they are to be a successful children’s book creator first and foremost, and wholesaling or trade shows aren’t even on my goal sheet. And even if I see happy picture book news, I still know that I’m on my own goal sheet, and working through it bit by bit, and I celebrate my own successes. It frees my mind to rejoice for others, instead of feeling jealous or beat down. I feel that it is an important skill to be able to celebrate others’ successes sincerely. What could be better than spreading joy in your and others’ hearts?

Social media can also be energy-zapping, and I have learned to recognize when I’m just aimlessly scrolling through Instagram in an effort to escape reality and space out, and put my phone down instead. Scrolling is not really helping me do either, and I’d rather draw, knit, and enjoy a cup of tea and feel rested after. 

The Future

I feel very blessed to have multiple ongoing projects. Book writing and illustration continues to take up a large chunk of my time, and I look forward to teaching more classes with a company called Etchr. I taught a round of watercolor classes with them before, and will continue the series with three more in Jan-March. If you sign up for either my or Etchr’s newsletter you can find out more about upcoming classes. Our first class/demo will be a free Youtube live on January 13th.  

I’m also planning that second Skillshare class, and have a big solo art show in Finland in June. All the work for that show is still in the planning phase, and since it’s my first solo show in several years, with very little expectation of style of work, I feel free and excited to create a whole new body of work, mixing different media and hopefully working a bit bigger for a change. The hardest part will be to figure out how to transport the work to Finland from Korea! The work I’m creating for the show will at least in part be available to purchase via my Etsy store next summer for anyone who is interested in owning a piece for themselves. 

Our time in Korea will be short, and before this year is over, we will already start purging and organizing things for the next PCS. We hope that our next duty station will give my husband some more time off, and a longer time before the next PCS. Our 20 years will be up soon too, and we have to decide as a family if we want to continue. There are benefits to a military lifestyle, but after all the moving, I’m starting to crave some peace and being able to put down some proper roots. I think many of you can relate to that! 

I hope that some of the things I’ve shared can inspire you into more confidence in 2022. I want to wish you all a Happy New Year! 



Mirka’s Newsletter :

Etsy shop: 

Mirka’s Linktree: 

Skillshare class:

Etchr current classes: 

Etchr Youtube channel: 

Instagram: (art) (illustration)



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