In this paper I argue that short and carefully structured essays can foster risk if they blend unfamiliar format with proper content demand. Students were given a square with 16 lines and 128 words and were asked to rewrite it into an eristic essay of the same format. The project's theoretical basis was short stories' use of scale, suggestion, openers, repeats, subversion; risk; academic writing, reader response. A lot of the essays were daring and different. Interviews showed that some students enjoyed autonomy and risk. But risk is safe if it is safely set into courses. The paper concludes that it is risky to think you empower students by giving them power: they should take it, and not be given it.