The annual award, which carries a $10,000 prize, is given by the Norman Mailer Center and the National Council of Teachers of English. McSpadden won for her short story, "Why Women Moan in Bed."
Judges were author and radio host Garrison Keillor and authors Colum McCann and Sigrid Nunez.
McFadden, who lives in Rock Hill, writes a column for the Observer's editorial page, usually on education. She'll accept the Mailer award at a gala Thursday in New York City. The prize also includes a month's stay at a writer's colony in Cape Cod.
The Norman Mailer Center gives several writing awards each year. It also named Davidson College sophomore Jessie Li, from State College, Pa., a finalist for the Norman Mailer Award for College Poetry Writing.